Norman Animal Welfare Center improves structure and protocols despite lack of city funding | New
The Norman Animal Welfare Center continued to push for structural and protocol improvements at the facilities despite the city denying them financial assistance.
Rebecca Bean, co-chair of the Norman Animal Welfare Oversight Committee and volunteer, went to Norman City Council asking for financial support for two new staff and renovations in April 2022, but was ultimately turned down.
“Everyone who volunteers at the shelter knows how desperately needed these positions are,” Bean wrote. “I had to get involved. I couldn’t sit idly by and let our shelter not receive the support it deserves.
She wrote in a message to the OU Daily that she became interested in animal welfare after trying to foster a pregnant dog in 2013 before being turned away because the Animal Welfare Center failed to home system at the time.
“I couldn’t believe Oklahoma’s third largest city didn’t have a host program,” Bean wrote. “I am committed to helping make the necessary changes as soon as I find a home for the mother dog, whom we have named ‘Cita’, and all of her puppies.”
Bean wrote that the shelter has “always” been understaffed and underfunded by the city. Volunteers are an important part of any shelter’s prosperity, she wrote, but participation fluctuates unpredictably.
“No other city department has to fundraise for paper towels, (and) you can’t run a city shelter with volunteers,” Bean wrote.
Some OU students raised money for the Animal Welfare Center, like Beta Theta Pi, who held a fundraiser and bought almost one item from every item on their Amazon wishlist. Similarly, publicity manager Macy Reasor sold lemonade near the Price College of Business. Norman Animal Welfare Center director Kellee Robertson said she was grateful for the generosity and kindness of OU students.
“It’s fantastic,” Robertson said. “There are the OU students volunteering, and then projects like (Beta Theta Pi’s), as well as student adoptions. They all help us. I don’t see anything negative about having students in our city.
Robertson said the fact that Norman is a college town has helped clean up the shelter on occasion, as students adopt cats and dogs looking for companionship. Sometimes students turn animals over to the shelter, but she said that wasn’t enough to cause any discomfort.
Antonieta Hernandez, a second-year master’s human relations student, said she only spoke with the Animal Welfare Center when she called about injured animals such as a squirrel, a cat that seemed pregnant and a hawk.
Hernandez said she has had nothing but positive experiences with the Animal Welfare Center. She said animal protection officers were always aware of the situation when she called and usually came to where she was instead of having her drive the injured animal.
“People who love animals care so much about animals, and I’ve been very lucky to find people who care about animals as much as I do,” Hernandez said.
As an international student, she said she started filing paperwork to have her cat allowed out of the country with her, as she plans to leave the United States permanently after graduating next May. . In her mind, she couldn’t imagine her life without him.
“When I got my cat I was going through a really bad depression and thought that something that might help me get out of bed and do the things that I don’t do for myself is to having a little creature that depended on me,” Hernandez says. “I might not do things for myself, but I knew for sure that I was going to do it for a creature that depended on it.”
Hernandez said that was when she adopted her cat, Milo, had him registered as her emotional support animal, and the rest is history. Robertson said cats are by far the most popular among UO students, and she’s glad so many students seek the shelter in search of a friend.
“Personally, we don’t have any obstacles (like age restrictions). … We are open adoption,” Robertson said. “Everyone deserves to have an animal in their life.”
The Animal Welfare Center has made progress over the past eight years as animal laws have improved as chaining of animals has been banned, the shelter has made it an official goal not to euthanize animals. adoptable animals and minimum requirements to protect animals have been better defined, according to Bean.
However, she wrote that about 40 percent of Oklahoma still doesn’t have an animal protection department, so she feels her job isn’t done.
“If you are in the Normandy countryside, outside the city limits, and you call the sheriff about an unwanted dog on your property, he will often tell you to put it down,” Bean wrote. “It is completely unacceptable to me. Until we find a partnership with the county, I will continue to push for solutions for all animals in our community.
Bean wrote that the shelter’s management and staff have also improved dramatically over the past decade. She wrote that it was “super fun” working with Robertson, who was hired last February, as Robertson has brought “productive change” to the shelter.
Specifically, Robertson has streamlined volunteer vetting. Robertson said what took the longest was background checks and forms screening as their paperwork was processed with the rest of the Norman Police Department before the volunteers began orientation.
Now, she says, potential volunteers can first go through orientation to see if working at the shelter is right for them. She or the shelter supervisor then takes referral requests to the police department where they undergo the police department’s extensive background checks.
“It made our ability to get volunteers totally through the process and on board probably 30 to 60 days faster than before,” Robertson said.
Robertson said she first worked for the shelter from 1994 to 1999 as a volunteer before becoming a police officer with the Norman Police Department for the past 23 years. Robertson, however, said she knew her job would inevitably come down to animals.
“I always knew I would come back to animal welfare,” Robertson said. “I had planned to spend 25 years in the police department, but this job became open, and it’s not open very often, so I had to apply.”
She said the work of the Animal Welfare Center is constant and comprehensive, even with everyone’s positive attitudes, because one day they grow in numbers and then another group of dogs or cats are introduced.
The end goal, she said, is to control the ‘ins and outs’ of adoption and abandonment by convincing people to neuter and neuter animals, which would theoretically stop the flow of unwanted animals.
Robertson said that due to the shelter’s need for permanent staff, she recognizes how vital key volunteers like Bean are to the development of the Animal Welfare Center. She said she values volunteers as much as her paid employees.
“We have volunteers who are literally like staff to us,” Robertson said. “They are here every day, eight hours a day, all day. They do it out of the goodness of their hearts, (and) we treat them as one of our own and care for them.
Robertson said the staff at the shelter is what makes it a place she likes to work. These people, she said, are fighting for every life that comes through the animal welfare center and their right to thrive outside the shelter. She said that’s what’s most important to her.
“I will argue all day this is the best safe haven in the state of Oklahoma,” Robertson said. “Everyone here has the best attitude about what we do, and the work we do here saves lives. It’s absolutely the most important job I’ve ever done in my life.”