Seagoville _dogPolice Sergeant Karl Bailey had never run an animal shelter before, much less spent much time in one, when the police chief in his town asked him to take over management of the town’s shelter in 2011.

“Why?” Sgt Bailey remembers asking, flummoxed.

“Because you’re the animal lover,” said the chief. The animal shelter in Seagoville, a suburb of Dallas, had recently moved under the police department’s control.

The chief ended up talking Sgt Bailey into taking over, but the sergeant had one condition: Seagoville wasn’t going to keep putting animals down wholesale on his watch.

With Sgt Bailey’s promise as the linchpin, the Seagoville shelter transformed rapidly from a “gas chamber” that euthanized 80 percent of its animals each year to a success story saving more than 97 percent of its animals in 2011 and 98.5 percent in 2012. For this reason, Sgt Bailey is speaking at the American Pets Alive! conference later this month.

At the Feb. 23-25 conference, he will discuss how he and his small group of volunteers were able to rescue so many dogs and cats with a budget of less than $30,000 a year.

He’s not afraid to say that it took a lot of work and that he couldn’t have done it without the volunteers, only four at the time they first decided to make the shelter no-kill.

“What I had read about no-kill – and I had done a lot of research because I knew virtually nothing going in – I knew that we couldn’t go back on it,” Sgt Bailey says. “If we went down that road, it was a one-way street. There was no reversing, no going backward.”

Seagoville _eventSo he and the volunteers snapped into action. They recruited more people to help and relied heavily on a Facebook page to post pictures of the animals in need of homes; they noticed rescue groups increasingly stepped in. They also hosted adoption events, originally every other weekend, and then every weekend once the flow of animals arriving at the shelter got too high.

“Unfortunately saying you’re no-kill is a double-edged sword,” Sgt Bailey says. “It means a lot of people dump animals.”

About 5 to 10 animals are left at the shelter’s doorstep a month, Sgt Bailey says. One morning, he and others arrived at the shelter to find puppies running around the parking lot. But they do their best to adopt out these left-behind pets, too.

Besides manpower and social media, what also helps the Seagoville animal shelter keep adoption rates up are donations. With that money, the shelter buys vaccines and fixes up the few wounded dogs and cats that show up there each year.

But Sgt Bailey notes that even though the shelter achieved no-kill status rather quickly – Jan. 10 marked 2 years since reaching that status – it hasn’t always been easy. In September, 54 dogs “were in a bunch of kennels and crates in a 2,300 square foot shelter. It got very crowded after awhile.” That was the first time he and the others at the shelter wondered if their system wasn’t working anymore. They worried they’d have to put some of the dogs down.

Euthanasia thankfully did not turn out to be a solution. The volunteers went to a handful of venues to get the animals adopted; they also kept the shelter open throughout the weekend.

“Honestly, it takes a village to do something like this,” Sgt Bailey says, noting that now there are 40 volunteers, instead of the four they started with.

Seagoville _volunteersTo hear more from Sgt Bailey register for the American Pets Alive 2013 No-Kill Conference!

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