The Johnston County Animal Shelter received its first volunteer applications last week.
On Thursday, three people signed up – Tammy Godusi, her husband Amir and Leslie Smith. The three of them made up the core group of activists pressing for a new volunteer program at the shelter.
They were concerned also about the use of the gas chamber as a euthanasia method. After months of pressure, the county agreed to switch to lethal injection for all but the most dangerous animals. Godusi, a Cleveland community resident, said she’d continue to monitor the transition.
“We’re going to end up addressing the gas chamber issue again to see what progress we’ve made,” she said.
But Godusi – who has crossed swords with shelter director Ernie Wilkinson many times in recent months – was in a good mood Wednesday. She and Amir got what they had been fighting for. They looked briefly at the waivers Wilkinson handed them and signed their names.
Wilkinson said he’s looking for at least 10 volunteers. That group will undergo a weekend orientation class, followed by training tailored to their interests. Godusi would like to see a class completed in the next four weeks, but Wilkinson said he won’t schedule one until he gets at least 10 volunteers.
Applicants can check off a list of things they’re interested in doing, including helping socialize and clean the animals.
The biggest goal of the volunteer program, Godusi said, is to help make more animals suitable for adoption and thereby save them from euthanasia. “The most important thing is that we try to get the dogs socialized and try to increase adoption,” she said.
The shelter has done a lot of work in preparation for the volunteers, Wilkinson said. The staff rearranged the layout so the most dangerous animals – usually feral dogs – are in a back room at the shelter. The room, known as the quarantine room, used to be accessible from the main hallway but no more.
Now, volunteers never have to interact with quarantined animals. That, along with new policies, procedures and legal waivers, give Wilkinson some relief.
But the shelter director said he would still be keeping a close eye on this first class. “Somebody’s going to have to supervise them very closely, at least in the beginning” he said. “Hopefully, as time goes on, it’ll continue to grow and those who’ve been doing it a while can (help).”
Godusi is also talking with County Manager Rick Hester about the possibility of a shelter committee. The committee would include Wilkinson, a veterinarian, a groomer, a member of a local animal-rescue group and a volunteer. The committee could help plan fundraisers and explore ways to improve the volunteer program.
The volunteer effort is still in the early stages, but Amir and Tammy Godusi believe it will come together nicely if they keep working with Wilkinson. “If you’re not persistent, nothing happens,” Amir said.
Anyone interested in volunteering can pick up an application at the Johnston County Shelter, located at 115 Shelter Way, just off of North Bright Leaf Boulevard in Smithfield. The staff is working on putting the application online, but Wilkinson is not sure when that will be done. For more information, call the shelter at 919-934-8474.