Shelter coordinator learns how to market adoptable pets

Special to the Fort Mill TimesJune 15, 2014 

Kathy Hawkins, volunteer coordinator for the Humane Society of York County, participated in a workshop to learn techniques to help HSYC pets find homes.

JENNIFER BAXTER — JENNIFER BAXTER

— Kathy Hawkins, volunteer coordinator for the Humane Society of York County, recently represented the HSYC at a one-day workshop in Charlotte, presented by Petfinder, the online database of adoptable pets.

The workshop was sponsored by Petco and hosted by the Humane Society of Charlotte and Charlotte/Mecklenburg Animal Control.

“I learned a lot at the seminar,” said Hawkins, who has been volunteering for the HSYC since she first moved to South Carolina with her husband in early 2012.

Her main interest in attending the workshop was to hear a behaviorist speak about stressed dogs and shelter life.

“We are a no-kill shelter so it is an issue with us,” said Hawkins, 54. “Some dogs just can’t handle being kenneled for months on end and start to show signs of stress – losing weight, circling in the kennel and jumping on the walls. We are always looking for ideas to help them.”

Another highlight for Hawkins was learning techniques for getting their shelter dogs noticed, including making videos of the animals, taking photos that show their best attributes and posting to popular social media sites. Currently, there are about 40 dogs and 140 cats at the HSYC.

Last year, the shelter adopted 322 dogs and 330 cats, and are already a third of the way to matching those numbers this year.

The Humane Society of York County receives no city, state or federal funding and relies solely on donations to meet its $38,000 monthly operating costs.

Although there is a small staff, Hawkins said the shelter relies heavily on volunteers. In addition to walking the dogs and taking them out to play, volunteers also clean cages, wash bowls, do laundry and help at adoption events and fundraisers.

“We have some very dedicated volunteers but are always in need of more,” she said.

Dog walkers are needed from 8:30 to 10 a.m. and from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Volunteers who can get to know the animals and be available during the adoption hours of 1-6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, are also needed.

Hawkins said because visitors often don’t know exactly what they’re looking for, it is helpful to have volunteers on hand who can speak about the animals’ personalities and choose one that would be a good fit.

“We take pride in choosing the right fit for a family,” she said. “We are very protective of our animals and want the adoptions to work. The more contact we have with a prospective adopter, the better.”

For those interested in volunteering, orientations are held on the first Saturday and third Friday of each month at the shelter at 8177 Regent Parkway in Fort Mill.

Hawkins adds, that since the volunteers are all the animals in the shelter really have, their gratitude for a simple walk or any attention is overwhelming.

“I feel so good when I leave, knowing that I made a difference in their lives for one day,” she said. “There is nothing more satisfying than bringing a dog out to the fenced area, releasing their leash and seeing them run off to romp and play in the sun.”

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