Consider adopting a shelter animal this month

October is "Adopt a Shelter Dog/Animal" month, a time when the entire country is encouraged to look for new pets at local animal shelters, humane societies and non-profit organizations.

Doing so can decrease overcrowding, euthanasia rates, and get animals off the streets and into someone's home.

Animal shelters are a great place to start and a great resource when trying to find the perfect pet for you or your family.

Before adopting any pet, however, there are a few things that you should consider:

•Family: Are there any members of the family that are allergic to animals or asthmatic? Are there any small children who might be overpowered by a large dog or who may play too rough with small cats or dogs? Is there a family member willing to play with and housebreak the animals?

•Home: Is the home and yard large enough to support a large dog? Does the landlord or homeowners association allow pets?

•Time: Would the adoptee have time to regularly exercise a dog, groom a long haired cat, or play with the animals? Would he or she have time to clean up after accidents and vacuum animal hair?

•Budget: Can the adoptee afford the financial burden of owning a pet? Animals need: food, toys, regular pet care supplies, routine check-ups, shots, medication, grooming, licensing. When the owner goes on vacation, he or she will also have to consider finding a place for the animal to stay, which may include kennels.

Once you've decided to adopt an animal, filled out all the paperwork, and paid the adoption fee (if applicable), you must be willing to take your new pet to a veterinarian within seven days of the adoption.

If you have a specific pet in mind and haven't found it yet, you can put in a pet request at your local shelter. There, you can specify the type, size, breed, sex, or age of the pet you'd like to own. The shelter will contact you when an animal comes in that you might be interested in.

There are two local animals shelters that currently have pets up for adoption.

•New Kent Animal Shelter (NKAS): NKAS, located at 6301 Olivet Church Road in New Kent, and run by New Kent Animal Control, serves New Kent, King William, King & Queen, Charles City, James City, Henrico and Hanover counties.

NKAS is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Information on New Kent Animal Shelter can be found at: http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/VA382.html or by calling (804) 966-9500 (New Kent Animal Control).

•Regional Animal Shelter (RAS): RAS, located at 20201 King William Avenue in King William, serves both King William and King & Queen counties.

The lobby is open: Monday through Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday evenings until 6 p.m., and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The kennel hours are: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday evenings until 6 p.m., and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Information about the shelter can be found at: http://www.kingwilliamcounty.us/animal_shelter.html or by calling (804) 769-4983.

During the month of October, when you trick-or-treat at RAS and bring in a "treat" for the animals, during lobby hours, you will get a treat too, for being kind to animals.

Suggested shelter animal treats: Dogs - rope toys, squeaky toys, nylabones, rawhides, milkbones, etc. Cats - catnip mice, kitty treats, tiny stuffed animals, shower curtain rings, etc.

Both RAS and NKAS are also currently accepting monetary donations and pet supply donations, such as washable rugs, dog biscuits and treats (natural, without dyes), bleach, rolled paper towels, pet carriers, dishwashing detergent, clay kitty litter, washable cat and dog toys, towels, sheets and pillow cases, blankets (not stuffed, quilted, or electric), collars and leashes, and much more.

Please contact the shelters about donations.

Aside from animal shelters, citizens are also encouraged to consider adopting pets through local humane societies and organizations, which often receive the shelters' overflow.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, without these organizations, some shelters/pounds would be forced to euthanize animals.

There are two humane societies in the area, New Kent Humane Society (NKHS), Indian Rivers Humane Society (IRHS), as well a cat organization, 4 Paws (formerly the Cat Care Alliance).

•New Kent Humane Society: NKHS was established in January 2009 to address the growing number of homeless animals in New Kent County.

The humane society assists in the placement of animals from the New Kent County Animal Shelter, and does not accept owner-surrendered animals, except in extreme cases.

To help control the pet population, all of the adoptable animals at the New Kent Humane Society are spayed/neutered. At the time of spay/neutering, the dogs are micro-chipped and provided with a collar.

The pets are also fully vaccinated, groomed, and treated for intestinal parasites, as well as tested and treated for certain diseases.

The adoption fees vary, depending on the animal.

The adoptable pets can be found on the New Kent Humane Society website, http://newkenthumanesociety.org.

The online adoption applications are also available on the site.

New Kent Humane Society can be reached at: (804) 966-7105 or http://newkenthumane.org.

•Indian Rivers Humane Society: IRHS was established in 1996, serving King William, King & Queen, and Essex counties.

According to IRHS volunteer Jeanne Smith, the humane society was developed after King William County citizens raised concern about the large amount of abandoned hunting dogs, cats and other dogs being dropped off on county roads, and the preventable production of many unwanted puppies and kittens.

Residents are encouraged go to the IRHS website, http://www.indianrivershumane.org, and browse the animals available for adoption. The humane society is also looking for fosters, donors, and sponsors.

The adoption application can also be found on the IRHS site.

For more information, please contact IRHS at: (804) 885-3109 or indianrivershumane@yahoo.com.

•4 Paws (formerly Cat Care Alliance): 4 Paws was established 2 1/2 years ago to "actively implement a stray/ feral cat spay and neuter and return program in the Town of West Point," according to one of the organization's founders, Lynda Weaver.

Since its inception, 4 Paws, a committee of IRHS, has started spaying and neutering stray and feral cats out in the counties they serve, as long as the person agrees to take back the cats and feed and care for them.

4 Paws does not take feral cats at this time, but has lots of sweet cats and kittens for adoption. Some can be found at the Thrift Spot, which opened on May 16 at 801A Main Street in West Point, to help fund the program.

"So far we have been very successful, with the community supporting the store with their donations of used goods and shopping the store for hidden treasures," said Weaver, the store's manager.

"Apparently, we are filling a need that the people in our community have had for awhile. They now have a place to make tax-deductible donations without driving to Richmond or Williamsburg, as well as a place to find some really wonderful bargains," she added.

4 Paws has recently started searching for a piece of land in King William County for a no-kill sanctuary for cats, and dogs that are waiting for a home or will not be able to be placed.

"We have a potential grant that comes with the stipulation that the sanctuary be in King William," Weaver said. "We would sure like to speak to someone who has a 10-acre or more piece of land that they would donate or sell at a good price."

The property would also need to have a building or building site that is well off of the road and backs to a wooded area, and could be zoned for the sanctuary, she added.

Interested in adopting a cat from 4 Paws and/or helping out the cause? Visit them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/catcaretakersalliance) or visit the 4 Paws Thrift Store, open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. There are usually kittens in the shop that are available for adoption.

"Please come and watch the kittens play and please shop," Weaver said.

"All the proceeds go to the cause."

Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.