Not just dogs and cats

Published 7:23 pm Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ozzie and Ollie live in an often-forgotten corner at the Suffolk Animal Control with only each other for company.

The employees at animal control ensure the pair is well cared for. But, while the cats and dogs get plenty of visits from people wanting to adopt them, other species — like gerbils, for instance — often are ignored.

“It seems to be more difficult to find a home for other animals,” said Captain Meghann Chapin, chief of animal control. “I’m not sure, but it might be because people come in with wanting a cat and dog already in mind.”

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People in the market for pets have a great but underutilized service at animal control. And it’s not just for dogs and cats anymore.

“We’ve had a pig we picked up in downtown Suffolk and a goat we found running around with two golden retrievers,” Chapin said.

“The officer went to go pick up the dogs and found the goat with them. When he opened the door and motioned for the dogs to jump in, the goat did, too. It’s usually our experience that we have to put a leash on goats and fight the animals in, but this goat thought it was a dog. He even would go out to do his business and then butt his head against the door when he was ready to be let back in.”

Homes were found for both the goat and the pig.

Animal control officials also found safe homes for a white turkey that fell off the back of a feed truck around Thanksgiving, for four chinchillas and for an albino Burmese python. Still, Chapin said, there were difficulties locating families for the animals.

“Every now and then when we get pictures on the website of other animals, like guinea pigs and ferrets, people will call and ask what other kinds of animals we have,” Chapin said.

Even though it takes the animals a while to be adopted, smaller rodents often have an impossible time finding a home when they land at the animal shelter.

“The adoption fee for animals is $25,” Chapin said. “People often don’t get our hamsters and rodents because they say they can go to the pet store and buy them for less – which is true.”

But, while pet buyers can give a comfortable animal from a pet store a home, the animals at the homeless shelter need a safe, loving home too.

“With the guinea pigs, if someone decides to buy both, we’ll give them Ozzie and Ollie for $25 total – to keep them together,” Chapin said.

Also, at the Suffolk Animal Control is a 13-year-old pony.

“We’ve had him since September,” Chapin said. “He was seized in a animal cruelty case, but we’re having a hard time finding him a home, too, since he isn’t gelded.”

The pony is just one of the homeless animals that has been bypassed because of its past.

“Sure, a lot of the animals we bring in are stray and we don’t have medical history or background on the animals,” Chapin said. “But we observe them and watch their behavior with the other animals. We also vaccinate them and hold them for 10 days before we put them on the floor to see how they act with other animals.”

Providing a home for a homeless animal is a priceless thing, Chapin said.

“Yeah, they won’t be purebred, but they’re just as good,” she added.