Visit to Omaha Shelter

By Diane Robertson

August 2014

On a recent business trip, I was lucky enough to have the time to visit the local shelter.  This post is about what I saw, experienced and have since learned about this facility.

SPOILER ALERT!  This is the nicest shelter I have visited yet.  Read on to find out about this shelter.

First, Omaha is a pretty big city with all the usual types of neighborhoods.  Wealthy, low-income, white, black…they seem to be fairly diverse but obviously more white than other races . The population of the city is around  421,000.  I found the following graphic if you are interested in a visual of the race breakdown.  I include this information for every city I visit these days because I have found that knowing a bit more about the city residents can be helpful to understanding cultural differences in their approach and attitude toward pets as well as potentially a language barrier to getting the message out effectively.  In California, some cities are overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking and it is my opinion that some of the animal population problems are the result of people not speaking to the residents directly, in their first language and keeping their cultural differences in mind when designing education campaigns and/or media campaigns.  We have to do whatever we possibly can to reach out to our community members effectively to reduce the suffering and death occurring in our municipal animal shelters.

OmahaNebraskaRaces1

 

Back to Omaha.  In Omaha, someone or group of people did a truly awesome job first by having the non-profit Nebraska Humane Society in charge of the city animal shelter/services as well as acting for the entire county.  Second, the design and layout of these facilities is just fabulous.  Let me describe the layout of the buildings.  First and foremost, there is a giant purple sign (the color of animal causes) by the road that one simply cannot miss.  This is a sign that probably once belonged to a bank or similar business – you know the kind you expect from banks and fast food restaurants.  Here is a picture now that I have put it in context of how large this sign truly is.

roadsign

On the left is the animal services building with their fleet of vehicles for transporting animals.  Next to that on the right is the animal shelter.  The intake area is on the left side, closest to animal services.   Imagine that, someone thought about placement of facilities for effective and smooth flow of animals and people!  Believe it or not, many facilities are or seem to be just thrown together with little or no thought for best flow.

Next to the intake area, in the center of this building, is the beautiful entrance for the public.   More about this later on.  Next to the shelter building is the “Humane Education” building.  This is a very large building that is probably bigger than the shelter itself.  It looks like it was once a strip mall.  This building is devoted to education for people and dogs! On reading their website a few minutes ago, apparently they also offer training at the owner’s house!  So cool.   I did not capture of a picture of the entire education building, only a small corner of it with the big education sign.  In addition to the animal services building, the very large shelter building and even larger education building, there is the low-cost spay and neuter clinic where residents can do the right thing and have their animals “fixed”.

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Every facility should be so blessed to have a devoted education area.  How many more animals could be saved if this was standard of practice everywhere?  Oh, I think that number surely would be in the millions every year!  Just my opinion, but I would love to be proven wrong by having this become a reality.

Now back to the public entrance to the shelter.  My first view as I am approaching from the right is shown below.  So colorful and landscaped, I am impressed before I have seen much of anything.

approaching entrance from side

 

In the center of the walkway, by the sidewalk closest to the parking lot, is a water fountain/bird bath with a dedication placard.  Let’s not overlook the stone walkway and yes, this appears to be a gigantic granite fountain that is much taller than my 5 foot tall frame.  Impressed yet?  Wait, there’s more.

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To the right and left of the beautiful fountain is the memorial garden.  Here are a couple of pictures:

 

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And yes, there is more…

They didn’t forget a truly important message for the summer time (it was raining the day I was there but summer none-the-less).  At the entrance doors here is a 3-4 foot tall sign reminding folks about how deadly the heat can be for pets left in the vehicle:

4 foottallsignatdoor

 

When you walk in the door there is a foyer of sorts.  Kind of the space between the outside and inside of the shelter.  (Probably for helping to keep heating and cooling costs down-remember this is Nebraska).  In this space, one entire wall is covered with a photograph of a woman and her dog with a placard with some details.  Off in the corner of this area is the cutest bench ever.  Check out the picture below.  Yes this photo really touches ceiling and floor, it is that big!   Sorry for the quality of these photos, I am not a professional photographer obviously.

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Off to the side is this full size sitting bench made of colored stones.  How cute is that!20140827_154139

 

 

I didn’t get a lot of pictures inside the building but the awesomeness continues.  There is a large welcome desk to the left, seating area to the right and individual cat “cages” directly ahead.  There is a center room where they keep the cat litter and other supplies, with sinks and other areas for cleaning and prep.  I know this because the cat cages are glass and I could look through the cages to the center and see all this.  Guess what, no smell.  No kitty litter odor.  Why…because it is all contained within the center room that is not open to the public.  From this center room, workers can reach into each cage and clean as needed without ever exposing the cats to  other cats or people to the horrible smells that catteries can generate.  I LOVED IT.

Besides this center room that houses say 50 kitties or so, each in their own cage, there are a number of glass visiting rooms with closing doors that people use to get to know a particular kitty they may be interested in adopting.  Going down the hallway (on left or right) that the center room lined with cat cages creates you eventually come to several cattery rooms.  In what I would call the main cattery (only maybe 6-7 cats in there), there is a gigantic water feature, beds for each cat, small food and water bowls placed like for each cat.  Again, so clean I did not notice any smells, despite  at least a couple of cat boxes in the cattery.  Here is a picture of one of the residents and the water feature:

acatteryresident                                                                                                               oneofthrwayetbowlsyepawaterfeatureinyhecattery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A single cattery would not do for such an awesome facility so there was a kitten cattery and at least one other small cattery along the back wall and another visiting room.  Check out the super cute holes they punched in the glass so the kitties and people could touch but not hurt each other.  So you could see better, I stuck my fingers the “pad” part of the kitty foot print hole.  There were a number of these cute access points in these small catteries along the back wall.

the cute holes to the csttery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just for fun I took a pic of one cat lounging in a bed mounted about 4 feet off the floor.  There were a number of these wall-mounted beds as well as beds on the floor, etc.

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The Dogs

The dog area is accessed via a closed glass door off the hallway by one of the visiting rooms.  So, it is not directly in sight of the cats or next to cat cages, etc.  Nice placement!  So thoughtful!  There are two large dog rooms that are separated again by glass doors.  I think the first room is for the female dogs and the back room is for the male dogs.  The kennels were clean, did not smell and had a bed and bedding.  Every kennel is sponsored by someone or a group and that sponsorship is noted on a blue placard on each kennel.  So awesome.


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Besides the nice placards that help illustrate that it takes a lot of money and dedication to have such wonderful facilities, I noticed that just about every kind of dog imaginable was here.  I saw a couple of grey hounds, beagles, Chihuahuas, black lab, golden lab, Irish Setter, Newfoundland giant dog, a few pit bulls, an awesome chinese crested, etc.  I was amazed at the quality of the animals and variety.  Like any kennel, it could get loud with dogs barking, which was scary to some dogs and it was every bit as sad a place for dogs as  any other shelter I have ever visited.  It only helped a little to know that there were awesome staff and volunteers doing their best to take care of so, so many homeless dogs.  I guess by the time I got to the dogs I was expecting something different because the rest of the facility was so awesome.  Nope.  That are well cared for, air-conditioned, great descriptions posted for each dog, etc but it was so sad it broke my heart, as usual.

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PJ the Chinese Crested…he’s an odd-looking little dude!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And here are two super-cute pug/beagle mixes I had the pleasure to meet:

OmahaTwins

 

 

Finally, I just had to know…what are the statistics for this facility? Do the operations match the shiny presentation?  They publish their numbers on their website.  Kudos to them for this!  Nicely transparent as all publicly funded/contracted facilities should be.  Anyway, I would say that they mostly operate to the level of their pretty, shiny exterior but I think their numbers can be a lot better.  They are apparently working on improving these numbers, which I applaud.  Never stop trying to do better and finding new ways to save more lives.  Below is a link to their numbers and a summary count of ” EUTHANASIAS” , which I call what it actually is…number of cats and dogs that were killed:

December 2013:  http://www.nehumanesociety.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Asilomar_statistic

Total Intake:  17,854

Total Dogs killed:  1379  Total Cats killed: 3759

Adjusted to account for owner requested kills:  Dogs: 977  Cats: 3560

Thank you for sharing my enthusiasm for saving as many as we can and for reading this post.

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