New ride helps animals keep cool during transport

By Kayla Baugh Published July 16, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Kayla Baugh

From left, Mike Wheeler, Mary Burks, Ginny Hightower and Brittney Mahoney stand in front of the new Animal Services truck at the Cabot Animal Shelter. Wheeler said the new vehicle will allow officers to be more efficient and respond to calls faster.

CABOT — A new animal-services vehicle, complete with two air-conditioned boxes in the back for transporting animals safely and comfortably, has found a home in Cabot.

Mike Wheeler, director of Animal Services for the city of Cabot, said the new truck will allow six animals to be transported at a time.

The old shelter vehicle did not have air-conditioned boxes and could only transport two animals at a time, he said.

“This will allow my officers more time in the field without having to come back and forth between calls,” Wheeler said.

He said the air conditioning in the boxes will also greatly benefit the animals.

“It gets really hot in the summer, and when it’s 80 degrees outside, it could easily be over 100 degrees in those boxes,” he said. “When it’s hot, a long drive in something like that can do more harm than good.”

The new boxes are also larger than the old ones, allowing large breeds such as mastiffs to fit into the space for easy transportation.

Wheeler said the new truck, a Ford F-250, is also large and can easily tow the Cabot Animal Shelter’s 28-foot mobile adoption unit.

“The adoption trailers holds 17 animals that we take to various locations throughout the state at least once a month. We do anything we can to put animals in front of people for adoption,” he said.

Wheeler said the new vehicle will allow officers to be more efficient and respond to calls faster.

The cost of the new truck was $25,485, and the new transport box was $12,378.

The new vehicle was taxpayer-funded, he said, and had been put into the 2017 city budget.

Wheeler said Cabot Animal Services deals with the welfare of animals, both domestic and wild, and the welfare of the public.

The animal shelter in Cabot offers low-cost spay and neuter clinics, low-cost microchipping and two drive-thru vaccination clinics to the public each year.

The shelter also provides public education on animal safety and welfare while enforcing all animal-control ordinances in the city.

Wheeler said the shelter transports many animals to rescues throughout the country.

“Pit bulls are banned in Cabot, but we don’t have to euthanize them. We are allowed to transport them out to responsible rescues. All of our pit bulls are transported to rescue groups out of state,” he said.

Wheeler said the shelter took in 2,972 dogs and cats in 2016, which is a very large number for a city the size of Cabot.

“Despite the large number, our euthanasia rate was only just over 3 percent last year; that includes animals that were run over, injured or too sick for the veterinarian to treat,” he said.

That means almost 97 percent of the animals left the shelter alive, he said.

Wheeler said the shelter stands out by accommodating animals found in bad condition, such as those with broken limbs.

Rather than euthanizing the animals, the shelter treats them and tries to adopt them out to rescues.

Wheeler keeps a small urn in his office that holds the remains of a dog named Ginger.

Ginger was severely overweight when the shelter took her in, and the border collie mix couldn’t move or walk.

“We got her out of that situation and got her on an exercise program at the shelter. She lost about 20 pounds, but unfortunately, her heart did give out about three weeks later,” he said.

“She’s a reminder of why we’re here. It’s those tragedies that keep us going.”

Ginny Hightower, an officer for Animal Services, said the new vehicle will provide staff and animals a safer mode of transportation.

Hightower was promoted from kennel technician at the shelter to Animal Services officer in January.

“We have a staff that really cares about the animals, and a really good volunteer rescue coordinator,” Hightower said.

“I’m also proud of how low our euthanasia rate stays. We usually only have to euthanize sick or injured animals.”

Hightower said the new air-conditioned boxes are the most important thing about the new vehicle.

“Our old vehicle was also breaking down more and more often,” she said.

“Mike Wheeler has really turned the shelter around to where it’s a lot cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing,” she said. “We also have a play yard and fences so people can see the animals playing outside. That is part of what has helped us justify more budget from the city,”

Hightower said she adopted her own dog from the animal shelter when he came in as a stray.

“He looked at me with those big brown eyes. I named him Nimitz, after the USS Nimitz, the ship my daughter is currently on,” Hightower said.

The people who work and volunteer at the shelter are truly passionate about animals, she said.

“Every day that I walk by and pet a dog or talk to a dog, it’s a little bit of interaction that they didn’t get on a daily basis,” she said. “They’re so appreciative of everything we do for them; it’s unconditional love to us. It makes me really, really happy when one goes home.

“I can’t make a difference for every stray dog out there, but I can make a difference for every single dog we get here.”

Staff writer Kayla Baugh can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.

None Kayla Baugh can be reached at 501-244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.

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