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

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 are two local animal shelters in the area that have pets up for adoption.

• New Kent Animal Shelter (NKAS): Located at 6301 Olivet Church Road in New Kent and run by New Kent Animal Control, NKAS serves New Kent, King William, King and Queen, Charles City, James City, Henrico and Hanover counties and 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): Located at 20201 King William Ave. in King William, RAS serves King William and King and 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 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 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.

• New Kent Humane Society: 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.

The adoptable animals at NKHS 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.

Visit http://newkenthumanesociety.org or call 804-966-7105.

• Indian Rivers Humane Society: Residents are encouraged go to the IRHS website at 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, 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 St. 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 a while. 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 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 at http://www.facebook.com/catcaretakersalliance or visit the 4 Paws Thrift Store, open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There are usually kittens in the shop that are available for adoption.