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Grant helps animal shelter hire first medical director

By BISHOP NASH, The Herald-DispatchJune 8, 2019

BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. (AP) — Emily Sowards will likely be the first medical professional the animals cared for at the Huntington Cabell Wayne Animal Shelter ever see.

But her forthcoming work could go a long way in meaning she’s not the only vet tech to ever treat the hundreds of homeless animals that enter — and hopefully someday happily exit — the shelter doors.

Fueled by a $50,000 grant from the Petco Foundation, the Huntington Cabell Wayne Animal Shelter was able to hire Sowards as its first full-time medical director, as well as cover the cost of vaccines and medicines for the animals that enter the shelter.

The grant was announced in May and officially received Wednesday in a brief ceremony at the Barboursville Petco store.

Sowards will provide much of the important preventative care in keeping shelter pets healthier and more adoptable, such as deworming them, vaccinating them, providing parasite treatment, connecting them with local veterinarians for spay or neuter appointments, and keeping up with their general wellness day to day. A previous fundraising drive helped purchase a laboratory centrifuge, a stethoscope, flea medicines and dewormer medicines.

For a nonprofit that often scrapes for donations of any size — even loose change in jars by cash registers — having that amount of money all at once allows it to check off a longtime goal of having an on-site medical professional.

“The impact this is going to have on our shelter — I can’t even put into words,” Sowards said.

It’s a dream job, she continued, using her education and effort to better the lives of the animals as they’re waiting for their forever homes.

“It’s sad, and a lot of people don’t want to come (to the shelter) because it makes them cry, but they need somebody,” Sowards said. “They’ve been let down by people the majority of their lives, and that’s why they’re with us.

“We’re their family for the time being, so when we can take care of them and help find that perfect home, that’s all that I can ask for.”

Sowards’ hiring is also a step toward the shelter becoming “no kill,” a goal of executive director Courtney Proctor Cross.

The shelter provides euthanasia services to the community by law and only euthanizes severely sick or aggressive animals. Animals euthanized in those cases are rare.

Sowards’ position is only funded through one year, though Cross has said she intends to apply for the Petco Foundation grant again next year.

The shelter also employs two animal control officers, two administrative assistants and four kennel techs. Cross’ salary is completely funded through donations made to the Western West Virginia Animal Rescue Alliance.

Monetary donations can be made to the shelter through the Western West Virginia Animal Rescue Alliance on PayPal at wwvara@gmail.com. Donations can also be mailed to 216 11th Ave. West, Huntington, WV 25701.

Anyone interested in volunteering or fostering should contact the shelter at 304-696-5551 or message it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HuntingtonCabellWayneAnimalShelter . The shelter is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com

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