Cats and dogs are on the move in Jacksonville.
Hedy Wuelling, manager of the Jacksonville Animal Shelter, said she is excited about using the shelter’s new mobile unit to take adoptable cats and dogs out into the community, hopefully increasing their chances of finding “a forever home.”
“This mobile unit will be great for off-site adoptions,” she said. “It’s just a lot easier to do it with the mobile unit.”
Wuelling said the shelter takes adoptable animals to set up in front of PetSmart in Jacksonville on a regular basis and was recently invited to Dolly’s Flea Market in Cabot. Before the mobile unit was acquired, these trips were made with two trucks loaded with crates and animals.
The new mobile unit can carry 17 to 22 animals, depending on their size. Wuelling said the shelter has been considering getting a mobile unit for about four years, but the price tag was just too high for the city. Luckily, the city did not have to fork over the money.
The mobile unit was a gift to the animal shelter from Christine and Jack Henderson. Christine volunteers regularly at the shelter and knew of the need for a mobile adoption unit.
“I told her I’d like to have one, but they’re pretty pricey,” Wuelling said. “She told me there was one on eBay, and then she said, ‘It’s yours!’ I’m happy about it. It’s something we’ve wanted for a long time.”
The unit came from a seller in Mississippi, and Christine had it re-covered with a new wrap for the Jacksonville shelter.
“I’m just happy we were in the financial position to do this for the shelter,” Christine said. “It’s much better than that money just sitting in the bank.”
Christine began volunteering with the shelter six months ago. She started with taking photos of adoptable animals for the shelter’s website, then began raising money and setting up an incorporated charity to collect donations — all with the goal of making Jacksonville a true no-kill shelter with the ability to take care of animals until they are adopted.
One day a few months ago, representatives and animals from several shelters were together at an event when Christine noticed that Jacksonville was the only shelter without a mobile unit. She asked Wuelling about it, and that is when she found out the mobile unit was financially out of reach for the city shelter.
At that point, she and her husband sought out the used unit and purchased it for the shelter. In addition to the unit’s new wrap, which features photos Christine took of dogs from the shelter, she had a new generator put in, the roof resealed and new piping installed.
“I wanted it to be something that would last,” she said.
The total cost — between the unit, repairs and the new wrap — was around $28,000.
“It’s really amazing that a citizen just donates that to you,” Wuelling said. “The budget is tight and the economy is tight, and that’s probably in every city where you have to watch the dollar amount on all your spending. We wouldn’t have this in the near future at all, and then this pops along. It’s a godsend; that’s for sure.”
One benefit of the mobile unit is that it is used just for adopting out — not taking in — animals. Wuelling said the shelter, which is open from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, used to be open on Saturdays, but the majority of the people coming in on the weekends were dropping animals off, not adopting pets. Now, the shelter opens from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. only on the second Saturday of each month, and that is for special adoption events when no adoption fee is charged.
“We didn’t know why we were open the sixth day of the week; we were taking in more than we were adopting out, so we closed [on Saturdays],” she said.
The shelter has 32 dog kennels, 10 cages in the puppy room and 20 cat cages. Spring and summer months are hard because of the increase in the stray cat and dog population, and the shelter has to euthanize some of the animals that do not get adopted.
Most of the animals at the shelter are strays, not pets surrendered by owners. All animals adopted out are sterilized in an attempt to halt overpopulation of dogs and cats.
Wuelling said the best way to keep up with the location of mobile unit is to check the Jacksonville Animal Shelter Facebook page. Otherwise, the shelter, at 217 S. Redmond Road, is open during the week.
Available animals can be seen at www.petfinder.com/pet-search?shelterid=AR60.
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.