Forsyth County Animal Shelter to go mobile, saving lives and taxpayer dollars

Justine Lookenott

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An example of the mobile unit the Forsyth County Animal Shelter is buying from La Boit Specialty Vehicles, Inc.(Image by La Boit Specialty Vehicles, Inc.)

(Forsyth County, GA) The Forsyth County Animal Shelter plans to hit the streets next year on some new wheels in an effort to reduce the stray population and save the lives of countless animals, while placing even more in new homes.

After a presentation by Cynthia Iacopella, the department of animal services manager, County officials unanimously approved the purchase of the 26-foot long, $323,116 mobile adoption and veterinary unit for the animal shelter to make their services more accessible to the community and save taxpayer money.

“There's a lot of different programs we are looking at to utilize this van like TNR, which is to ‘trap, neuter and return’ the feral cat populations and fund the surgeries of those animals” Iacopella said. “Also offering low-cost or no-cost veterinary care to socioeconomically challenged individuals or people who are having hardships.”

How will this mobile unit help the community?

The van will come fully equipped with dental and surgical equipment, two surgical tables and an x-ray machine.

“Unfortunately, we get a lot of injured animals that come in as strays,” Iacopella said. “So it gives us the ability to take x-rays in real-time instead of transporting to one of our contracted veterinarians for those x-rays to get the diagnostics so we could get the care to them quicker.”

Spaying and neutering clinics will be offered to pet owners, but more specifically will be used to target the County’s feral cat population using the TNR method. The shelter estimated there to be about 14,734 feral cats in the County, with 85 percent of cat intake at the shelter being stray cats.

The TNR method is expected to drop the cat intake at the shelter by 3 percent during the first year and continue to decrease over time, according to the American Veterinary Association. This will ultimately save the shelter money as well.

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85 percent of cat intakes at the Forsyth County Animal Shelter are stray cats(Image by Getty Images)

The van will be making stops at parks and community events to promote pet adoptions. With climate-controlled cages and a roll-up window, visitors will be able to meet their potential new family members. This program will help to reduce the shelter’s euthanasia rate and increase the live-release rate.

To help promote better ownership and increase the redemption rate of stray animals, Iacopella said they will also offer free or low-cost microchip, vaccination, and spay and neuter clinics.

“There's always a need to help people who can't afford that care for their animals,” Iacopella said. “And adoptions, just getting out to the community and saving all those animal lives is a very important mission that we try to accomplish.”

But the shelter is also thinking ahead in terms of emergency situations or natural disasters like floods, fires or tornadoes.

“Hopefully we never have this need,” Iacopella said. “But if there's any kind of natural or manmade disaster, we have the ability to get there quickly to safely contain animals on the unit…and owners can not have that worry.”

Overall, she expects the unit to not only save the lives of animals and prevent more strays, but the unit will also save the shelter money. They were even able to purchase the van below their expected budget by $26,884.

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The mobile unit will offer free or low-cost microchip, vaccination, and spay and neuter clinics.(Image by Getty Images)

How will the mobile unit help the shelter?

  • The live-release rate will increase from 68 percent to 90 percent
  • The euthanasia rate will be reduced from 30 percent to 10 percent
  • For every cat “trapped, neutered and released,” 16 less kittens will be born
  • The shelter’s cat intake will drop
  • The unit’s surgery suite will reduce the operating budget by approximately $30,000 a year
  • The unit’s x-ray machine and surgery equipment would reduce the operating budget by an additional $10,000 a year
  • The decrease in shelter intake would save the annual operating budget about $3,000 a year
  • The offset clinic and adoption events are expected to bring in about $10,000 per year in revenue

Iacopella said the shelter has the design for the van planned out but are still working out the details. The mobile unit is expected to be in operation in fall 2023.

To learn more about adoption and volunteer opportunities, visit the Forsyth County Animal Shelter's website.

If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact Justine Lookenott at justine.lookenott@newsbreak.com.

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I cover local news in Forsyth County, GA. My debut into the writing world began at the age of 10 when I won an essay contest in Around Acworth Magazine in which I wrote about spending the summer with my pet goat, Eclair. Since graduating from Kennesaw State University, I have been published in several newspapers and magazines in the Atlanta area including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta School Guide, What Now Atlanta, Newcomer Magazine, the Marietta Daily Journal and the Cherokee Tribune.

Forsyth County, GA
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