By Lydia Denney / ldenney@chronline.com

Looking for a new friend or family member of the furry variety? Lewis County Animal Shelter currently has a number of dogs and cats in need of forever homes.

Starting in 1980, the shelter became the first in Lewis County and today it remains the sole animal shelter in the county. The building was not originally created to be an animal shelter, but over the years more and more spaces have been added to accommodate the number of animals that are brought to the shelter.

A dog looks out from it’s cage while awaiting to be adopted, Thursday afternoon at the Lewis County Animal Shelter.

Manager Amy Hanson has worked at the shelter for almost 30 years. Hanson works to make sure stray animals are reunited with their owners or adopted into a new family, since most of the animals brought into the shelter are strays.

“We post them on our Facebook page when they come in as strays and that’s really increased our return-to-owner rate,” Hanson said. “At that time, either the owner sees them, somebody that knows the owner or somebody wants to pre-adopt.”

When a stray animal is brought to the shelter, there is a three-business-day time frame for the owner to claim the animal before it is available for adoption. The shelter keeps an active lost and found book and tries to match up lost animals with their owners as soon as possible. And don’t think all of the animals hoping to be your new best buddy are soft and fluffy couch potatoes.

A dog looks out from it’s cage while awaiting to be adopted, Thursday afternoon at the Lewis County Animal Shelter.

“We get a little bit of everything,” Hanson said. “Everything from rats, to potbellied pigs, goats. We’ve had stray iguanas before. We just never know.” Any livestock larger than goats that are brought to the shelter are usually housed at a foster home until the shelter can find a permanent place for the animal.

Some important things to consider before adopting an animal include getting renter approval, understanding the lifelong commitment to owning a pet and having the time and space available that the animal will need. Every now and then the shelter will get a pet that an owner was not able to keep. As soon as the shelter gets an animal, they check for a microchip, the animal’s age and overall health. Then, the animal is spayed or neutered, vaccinated and wormed.

Manager Amy Hanson, left, and Director Danette York, right, talk about animal rescue Thursday afternoon at the Lewis County Animal Shelter.

The spring and summer months are what Hanson calls “kitten season,” which is usually their busiest time of year.

“During that period we can get 10 to 15 cats and kittens in every single day, and if you do the math on that, it’s a little bit overwhelming,” Hanson said.

The shelter provides resources to low cost spay and neuter services.

Summer, a Chihuahua-Yorkie mix, awaits finalization of her adoption, Thursday afternoon at the Lewis County Animal Shelter in Chehalis.

“Locally, a lot of our vets have unfortunately raised their prices for spaying and neutering,” Hanson said. “We’re getting more phone calls for people looking for additional resources than ever before.”

Because of the limited space for animals and storage, the shelter is trying to start raising funds for a new building. Danette York, Lewis County’s Public Health and Social Services Director, is working with a committee to begin funding plans.

“At the very least, the place needs to be gutted and redone,” York said. “But we’re hoping to fund enough to build a new shelter right here on the same property and then be able to continue using this building for an overflow situation.”

Summer, a Chihuahua-Yorkie mix, awaits finalization of her adoption, Thursday afternoon at the Lewis County Animal Shelter in Chehalis.

The airflow in the building is also poor, which affects the animals that are kept there, she said.

The shelter accepts monetary donations and any pet supplies including food, blankets and cleaners. There are many products available at the shelter in exchange for a donation. If people want to  give money, they can be specific as to what they want it to go to, for example, the building fund, general operations, medical care or food.

“A lot of people don’t realize that we’re even looking at a new building, but we have so many people that come and volunteer up here and they know that it’s needed,” York said.

If someone wants to help the shelter in other ways, it is always accepting new volunteers. The shelter holds an orientation class twice a month, the first Friday at 3:30 p.m. and the third Saturday at 2:00 p.m. There is also a volunteer handbook that people can pick up at the shelter. Before someone can volunteer, they will have to sign waivers, and any volunteer under the age of 18 needs a parent’s signature. Volunteers take dogs out for walks, brush animals, clean litter boxes and socialize with the animals.

“It makes the quality of life better for the animals here if they get extra petting and get out of the kennels and are being played with,” Hanson said.

For animals that aren’t adopted or that need medical attention or accomodations, the shelter reaches out to the Seattle Humane Society and other rescues for help.

“We’re not a no-kill shelter, but we very seldom have to euthanize animals anymore,” York said. “It’s typically because of behavior or if they’re dangerous or very ill.”

Hanson said the biggest issue right now is making sure pet owners ID their animals with phone numbers or microchips, and to make sure that their information is up to date. If someone loses a pet, it’s important to call the shelter right away.

All the animals available for adoption can be found on the shelter’s Facebook page or PetFinder.com. For more information about the shelter, visit their website, https://lewiscountywa.gov/publichealth/animal-shelter.

Manager Amy Hanson talks about donations they’ve received Thursday afternoon at the Lewis County Animal Shelter.