Pine Bluff Animal Control Director S.E. Shaw recently surprised two long-time animal shelter volunteers with certificates for their dedicated service during what they thought was just a meeting to go over upcoming events at the shelter.

Rather than spending time talking about themselves and their tireless service to some of Pine Bluff’s furry residents, they spoke about the work that still needs to be done and why volunteering is so important.

Janie Smith and Cathy Turner have both been shelter volunteers since 2013. Shaw said they have shown up every day for the past six years, even as the workload becomes larger due to the increasing number of animals needing shelter and the lack of volunteers to help.

“We can’t operate without our volunteers,” Shaw said. “We’re a staff of six people, and our shelter serves Pine Bluff area … half the day is spent feeding and cleaning, and then we have to figure out how to go out and service all the calls that come in. The same four or five people are on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so it’s a great undertaking to service this area.”

According to the ASPCA, 6.5 million animals enter animal shelters every year. Of that number, 1.5 million animals are euthanized and only 3.2 million are adopted. While these nationwide numbers may be alarming, locally there is a disproportionate number of intakes and outtakes at Pine Bluff Animal Control that normally fluctuates between 70-80 animals of their 93 kennels.

Many animal shelters rely on the help of volunteers to not only assist with the day to day operations of the shelter but also to aide in fostering or getting dogs and cats to their forever homes.

Smith is a part of an organization called Pine Bluff Animal Friends that consists of volunteers who act as a catalyst in aiding the Pine Bluff Animal Shelter in getting more animals adopted. Smith said a total of 97 animals were adopted last year. She explained that nearly 100 adoptions are a drop in the bucket compared to the number of dogs that the shelter has year-round.

“We’re just a group of people that kind of work to get the dogs out of the shelter,” Smith said. “We do dog washes or whatever to try to raise money to buy shots and wormer. There used to be whole lot of us, but it has kind of dwindled down now to about five of us.”

Smith often partners with Rescue Road, a non-profit organization in Little Rock that places the animal with a foster family for approximately two-to-six weeks, at which point they are transported to one of several Northern states where they will be adopted by their forever family.

Northern states have a low ranking in dog ownership, so this creates a good partnership for Rescue Road, Smith said. This organization is also run on donations and volunteerism.

Currently, Rescue Road is taking six of Pine Bluff Animal Shelter’s dogs and four cats.

“You’ve saved other lives when you can let these go — you can bring more animals in,” Turner said.

While Animal Control receives funding from local municipalities, they normally get what is left after funding the fire and police departments, according to Shaw. Animal shelters rely on annual donations, fundraising events and grants to help cover the cost of care for the animals.

Shaw said the key to controlling the number of animals that enter the shelter is educating the public on the different ordinances for pet owners.

“We need the citizens of Pine Bluff to know all of the ordinances and how to care for their pets,” he said. “They need to know everything from getting their animals neutered and spayed to how they should care for them in the winter months. For example, dogs cannot eat snow as a source of water, so water bowls need to be checked regularly.”

Shaw is pleading with the public to come in and volunteer, whether it’s feeding the animals, walking dogs or even folding towels. Pine Bluff Animal Shelter is currently planning events to invite the public to socialize with animals and find out more about adoption and volunteer opportunities.

The Pine Bluff Animal Shelter is located at 901 N. Haverty St. in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Details: Call (870) 543-5135