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Group's involvement causes kill rate to plummet at animal shelter

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thanks mostly to a local rescue group, the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association's animal shelter is seeing dramatic drops in the number of dogs and puppies it must put down.  

Dog Bless, a rescue advocacy group dedicated to saving dogs, has been working with the shelter to find homes for the animals instead of euthanizing them.

"Dog Bless has been wonderful," said Donna Clark, the association's executive director. "This month has been the biggest improvement in numbers that we've seen."

In February 2012, the shelter put down 105 dogs and 81 puppies. This February the shelter put 24 dogs and nine puppies to sleep — a 77 percent decrease in dogs and 89 percent decrease in puppies.  

"And the ones that were put to sleep is only because those animals were severely sick or injured or vicious," Clark said. "It wasn't due to space restrictions."

Dog Bless founder Chelsea Staley of Clendenin is thrilled that all-time lows for euthanasia rates are being logged.

"We're going to keep doing what we're doing. We always need foster homes, always need people to temporarily foster dogs," she said. "And we're going to be running for the shelter board, which has elections coming up in June.

"We are going to keep getting more involved on the shelter level and really enhance local adoptions."

Staley is motivated by personal experience. Two years ago, she and her husband wanted to adopt a puppy. Before they even had a chance to take him home, he died from parvovirus. Instead of criticizing the shelter, she decided to get involved.

"Be the change you want to see," she said.

Staley began coming to the shelter once a week to take photos of the animals so people could see them on the shelter's Facebook page to encourage adoption.

"Not only are the photo albums a shopping list for rescuers, but it also brings a face to homeless animals in our area. If they're not looking to adopt a dog, but see the Facebook album, one might just speak to you," Staley said.

"The shelter is an innately sad place. People say all the time that they cannot go in there. The Facebook album allows people to see who is available without being uncomfortable."

She operated for about a year before Kathy McClung, who also is passionate about the mission, criticized Staley for not having photos every day.

"I said, if you want to criticize, help me update the photos," Staley said.

From then on, they became a dynamic team. The company, made up of volunteers, now works to take photos, keep the Facebook page updated and find homes for the shelter dogs.

In less than a year that Dog Bless has been involved, euthanasia has decreased steadily.

In 2010 and 2011, about half of all dogs coming in were put to sleep. In the second half of 2012, rates decreased significantly, with not a single month climbing to triple-digit euthanasia deaths.

Staley said 83 dogs were rescued in February. The euthanasia rate went down 69 percent.

"We're doing really, really great. Not only is Dog Bless getting in our groove, but awareness is spreading," Staley said. "We're having a lot more support. Our rescue base has grown, and we've become more efficient."

Check out Dog Bless's Facebook page at


Contact writer Candace Nelson at or 304-348-5148. Follow her at


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