Because of an illness in its animal population, the Clay County Humane Shelter has closed operations until at least Jan. 23.
"We had a few puppies brought in who were sick," Humane Society Director of Operations Bill Cochran said. "We have closed down for the time being so we can make sure all the animals are well so the public doesn't adopt a pet and risk getting their other pets sick."
According to Cochran, the shelter's standard procedure when receiving new animals is to put them in a quarantine room for at least three days. After this time period, the animals are then released into the general population.
Cochran said in this case the animals showed no signs of being sick during the quarantine period, but became ill once entering the population.
"We had one puppy become infected initially, but later had two more puppies and an adult dog get sick as well and that's when we decided to close operations," Cochran said. "We are working with our vet to make sure the illness is completely gone before reopening. We have been closed since Sunday and we have to wait at least 10 days before we are allowed to let the public back in."
He said volunteers and employees of the shelter are working hard to clean and disinfect everything in the facility.
"I just hope the community can forgive us for being closed, and understand we are doing all we can to ensure the health and safety of our animals," Cochran said.
Cochran is also hopeful this will not affect their upcoming membership drive.
"We are looking for more people to join the humane society team," he said. "Those who want to join do not have to volunteer if they choose not to, but we certainly appreciate the extra help."
The yearly membership fee is $10 and Cochran is looking forward to building a stronger base of individuals who want to help the shelter.
"There are approximately 26,000 residents in Clay County and I know a lot of those are animal lovers," Cochran said. "We would like to get at least 1 percent (about 260) people to join the shelter so we can hopefully have a higher influence in getting animal control and safety laws into effect in the city and county."
He emphasized that the Humane Society is a non-profit organization which works with the city and county governments, but are not a governmental entity. A law Cochran hopes to put into effect is one which would prevent the creation of "puppy mills."
Along with the membership drive, the shelter is also organizing their annual shot clinic.
"The clinic will continue to be at the Forest Park Pavilion and will be on two Saturdays this year, May 3 and 17," he said. "We are still working out the details for the costs and times the clinic will run, but we want to make sure the residents know about it early."
The shelter continues to offer their spay/neuter clinic.
The cost for dogs is $61 and $56 for cats, while the adoption costs for a dog is $85 and $65 for cats. The adoption fee pays for the adoption itself, a rabies shot and the spaying/neutering of the animal.
"Our biggest thing right now is to make sure the animals are healthy so we can reopen and serve the community," Cochran said. "We do all we can to make sure the people of Clay County have a safe and happy experience with their pets."