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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Chuck Andrews and Laura Relue get to know Chyna, a dog they were hoping to adopt, Thursday at the Allen County SPCA. On Friday, they took Chyna home.

Pet adoptions at record pace

SPCA director credits easing of rules, coordination

It’s Thursday afternoon, and Chyna is on the cusp of getting a new home.

The black pit bull with a streak of white on her chest is on her best behavior.

She’s playing, she’s nuzzling, she’s jumping, she’s staying – she’s doing everything she can to charm the two people in the room with her.

Chuck Andrews and Laura Relue like what they see.

“We came in on the right day,” Andrews said with a hint of awe in his voice.

The couple walked into the Allen County SPCA at Hanna Street and Pettit Avenue looking for a new pet to live with them in the new apartment the couple have just rented.

And they’re quickly falling for Chyna.

Years ago, though, these two would’ve never had the chance to take that dog home.

In the past year and a half, the SPCA has done everything it can to chip away at old restrictions and regulations to adoption.

It’s been an effort to give more dogs and cats homes and to keep those animals from being euthanized.

No longer do you necessarily need a fenced-in yard to adopt a dog from the shelter. And now you don’t have to wait possibly weeks at a time for an adoption to be finalized.

Most times it takes a day or two, maximum.

The result?

The number of adoptions is soaring – to the tune of 206 during the month of May, a shelter record. The previous record was 168 adoptions in November.

“We’re thrilled to be reaching these kinds of results,” said Jessica Henry, the shelter director.

‘Coalition minded’

Henry took over the role of director 20 months ago with the goal of keeping more animals alive, she said. She previously worked in real estate for her brother Jerry Henry – she’s the sister of Mayor Tom Henry – but began to gravitate toward the nonprofit sector.

When she was named director, she immediately went about shortening the adoption process and even reaching out to other agencies and shelters.

Now, the local SPCA will take dogs from Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control, which has also seen an increase in adoptions.

In fact, places such as Animal Care & Control are working with other agencies including the SPCA in finding homes for animals.

Every animal the SPCA or another agency takes from Animal Care & Control goes down as an adoption.

During the first four months of 2013, Animal Care & Control had 822 adoptions.

In that same period this year the number has grown to 1,068.

“A lot of it is that aggressive partnership,” said Peggy Bender, community relations and education specialist at Animal Care & Control.

Bender added that her shelter has also given animals to other organizations, such as the Michigan Humane Society, as well as the SPCA, and each animal counts as an adoption in those cases.

“Everyone is really being coalition minded, and it’s wonderful,” she said.

And the dogs and cats ending up at the SPCA are finding homes. In 2012, there were 819 adoptions total from the SPCA.

Last year there were 1,274.

As of Thursday, the shelter was on pace to eclipse even that – there had been 836 adoptions.

Along with streamlining the adoption process and getting rid of the fenced-in yard rules, Henry did away with something else the SPCA shelter shied away from in the past.

It allowed pit bulls.

Like Chyna.

The office dog

Chyna is a special dog to Henry.

The animal ended up in Henry’s yard as a stray on Memorial Day.

She says it was obvious she had owners by the way she acted, but there were no tags and, ultimately, no identifying computer chip under the dog’s skin.

Chyna ended up at Animal Care & Control and, within about a week, the SPCA, where she quickly became Henry’s “office dog.”

“I always have an office dog,” Henry said. “She’s like an assistant.”

Henry likes the pit bull breed and lifted the ban on pit bulls she said the shelter used to have.

She felt the other restrictions in place were dated and served no one’s purpose.

Before, people living in an apartment could not adopt a dog over 40 pounds from the SPCA.

Finding homes

But Andrews and Relue are both runners who plan to run with the dog.

They are in their 20s – 24 and 20, respectively – and can probably give Chyna a better home than many people with houses.

“Do I look like a runner?” Henry asked. “I have a fenced in yard, but I’m not going to be taking this dog running.”

“We look for the best home,” she added.

And finding homes for these animals is what she’s all about.

She tells people considering adoption that taking home a dog or cat will save two lives.

The animal they’re leaving with, as well as another who will soon take up the new space left open at the shelter.

For Chyna, the prospects Thursday afternoon of being adopted were good.

Relue and Andrews both left happy and excited.

By Friday afternoon, Chyna had been removed from the SPCA’s roster of available dogs, and Relue and Andrews had taken her to a new and cozier home.