Ashley Hammond never doubts the endless ways in which pets enhance our lives.
"We get 80,000 visitors to the Lexington Humane Society Adoption Center each year," said Hammond, the development manager. "Each day, people are waiting on us to open."
Nearly 5,000 pets were adopted there in the past fiscal year, an increase of nearly 1,000 pets compared to the previous year. The growth in adoptions can be attributed partly to the organization's new First Contact Service, a concierge-style program in which clients request a particular breed they are interested in adopting.
For example, an individual or family might ask to be notified any time the Lexington Humane Society has a shih tzu/poodle mix dog available for adoption.
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"When we contact them, we give them a day or two to visit," Hammond said. More than 500 animals already have been adopted through the First Contact Service. "Many of them are first-time adopters, who otherwise would have purchased their dog through a breeder," Hammond said.
In addition, the Lexington Humane Society provides educational programs about pet adoption to more than 2,000 children and adults every year, Hammond said.
"That includes camps, school outreach and shelter tours."The organization, whose adoption center is open seven days a week, is fortunate to have 400 pet-loving volunteers, Hammond said. Each year, they provide more than 7,000 hours of service.
"Many of them are regular volunteers who visit the animals, groom them, socialize them and give them treats," Hammond said. Other volunteers work at the satellite adoption site at PetSmart in Hamburg.
"We're always looking for volunteers," she said.
Thanks to the generosity of the community, the volunteers and all the adoptive families, the Lexington Humane Society has a save rate of 98 percent, Hammond said.
"We're very proud of that. The national animal control save rate is less than 20 percent."
Hammond and her colleagues enjoy receiving positive feedback from people who have adopted a pet from the Lexington Humane Society.
"We hear really wonderful stories," she said. "We have one couple who had adopted a dog in the past six or eight months. The woman fell one day and her husband didn't know it; their dog alerted the husband, so he could call 911.
"We love hearing success stories," Hammond said. "We call them Happy Tails. Some of our dogs have become service animals who go out and look for people who are lost in the woods. Some of them become service dogs who visit residents in nursing homes."
The Lexington Humane Society also is taking animals inside companies during the workday to "show how much love the animals have to give for only receiving food, water and shelter," Hammond said.
"We've been working with Lexmark and we are going to start working with Xerox, taking animals into their customer service centers to help relieve stress. We may ask for a donation and take the animals there for three or four hours. Those call center employees have a pretty tough job."
In addition, a local nursing home is planning to foster a litter of kittens to give its residents a therapeutic experience, Hammond said.
"We find every day that these animals really do enrich the lives of their adopters."