SUNBRIGHT — August marked the six-month anniversary of the MoCo Mutts Rescue Center at their new facility here. It also marked a milestone.
After receiving 760 cats and dogs in 2020, MoCo Mutts reached 787 at the beginning of August, and is now rapidly approaching 1,000 for 2021.
When MoCoMutts president and founder Lisa Hill moved to Sunbright from Washington State with her husband, Jeff, in 2018, they intended to continue their senior dog lodge and animal rescue. However, since neither Morgan County or neighboring Scott County had an animal control or rescue facility, Hill and co-founder Tracy Wyant, from Maryland, expanded tehir mission and began accepting stray and unwanted cats and dogs of all ages.
In 2019, the rescue operation realized the need for a more permanent and accessible facility, and purchased the former Habitat for Humanity building in Sunbright. They began moving into the new facility in February 2021, and the dog lodge was rebranded MoCo Mutts.
Although it is based in Morgan County, MoCo Mutts says it has had increasing numbers of stray pets and owner surrenders dropped off from Scott County. The rescue’s proximity to Scott County, via easy access on U.S. Hwy. 27, and increased awareness has resulted in a spike in the number of animals coming from Scott County. During the month of August, 22 animals were brought in from Scott County.
The increase in animals from Scott County has increased the strain on the rescue center’s limited resources, and its founders have reached out to Scott County officials in order to discuss financial or logistical support.
The center says that increased public awareness has been a big influence on its number of intakes. Surrendered animals now account for 55% of all intakes, up from 30% last year. Many owners say they cannot take care of their animals any more due to job loss, family or health issues, or other hardships. Covid restrictions made it difficult for some owners to spay or neuter their pets.
The shelter has been caring for an average of over 80 dogs and 40 cats on a daily basis for several months, with a waiting list for certain animal sizes as kennel space is limited. In some cases, when owners are told there is a wait list, they release their animal nearby and it is picked up as a stray, or as an injured animal if it is struck by a vehicle while wandering loose.
The shelter is currently at maximum capacity, with over 100 animals in its care. The current animal count has forced the facility to offer curb service only for donation drop-offs and animal intakes. Open walk-throughs of potential adopters have ceased, due to the stressful and disruptive environment it creates as 80 resting dogs become 80 barking dogs.
Anyone interested in adopting an animal should reach out to the rescue operation for an adoption application.
MoCo Mutts is a non-profit organization staffed with volunteers, including its co-founders. The rescue recently hired a part-time employee to handle some of the kennel chores to ensure all daily tasks are completed whenever adequate volunteers are unavailable, and to allow Hill and Wyant to focus on other tasks.
While some animals are adopted locally, the limited availability of spay and neuter services in Morgan and Scott Counties make it difficult to prepare the animals for adoption in a timely manner. So far this year, MoCo Mutts has adopted out 16 animals to Morgan or Scott County residents and has transported 468 animals to out-of-area shelters for subsequent adoption.
Since they must rely primarily on volunteers to operate, MoCo Mutts is always looking for dependable adults who can dedicate a few hours a week on a consistent basis to take the dogs outside, clean the kennels, and prepare and fill their food and water bowls. For insurance liability reasons, the rescue cannot utilize children under the age of 18. There are other ways to volunteer for people who aren’t physically able to handle the animals, such as laundry, dish washing, maintenance, deep-cleaning, answering the phone, fundraising, or donation collection. Anyone wishing to volunteer should contact the rescue for a volunteer application. This enables the rescue to match center tasks with a volunteer’s desires and capabilities.
Community support is another important part of running the rescue, and tax-deductible donations are always needed and appreciated. Several area businesses are currently collecting donations for MoCo Mutts (i.e. Lilly Pad Hopyard Brewery and Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary), and more collection boxes are being prepared for other locations throughout the county. Frozen Head State Park scheduled two events where shelter supplies, like pet food and cat litter, for the Rescue were requested in lieu of an event fee. Lilly Pad Hopyard Brewery is hosting a MoCo Mutts Day at the Brewery on September 18. They are brewing a special beer for the event which will also include an art show, food and music. They will be selling a commemorative glass and sticker with the beer with proceeds going to MoCo Mutts. In October, MoCo Mutts will be partnering with the Oneida Tractor Supply Company Store’s Pet Event and will have animals available for adoption as well as merchandise for sale. Their mascot Muttley will also be in attendance, providing photo opportunities for the kids and his human handlers will be happy to answer questions, provide information and accept donations during the event.
Donations are always needed as the shelter requires a steady supply of kitten, cat, puppy, and dog food (canned and dry), cat litter, paper towels, bleach, and laundry detergent. There is also a need for portable kennels in good condition and wire and welded steel kennels to house the animals while in the care of the rescue or in transit to their forever home. MoCo Mutts is currently improving their facility kennels with easier to clean, healthier, and safer kennels for the dogs and cats. The rescue has a wish list on Amazon (under the old name, Senior Dog Lodge) and is listed with www.AmazonSmile.com, so that a small portion of the money you spend is returned to the community as a donation to MoCo Mutts.
The rescue is currently looking for a reliable large van or shuttle bus for transporting animals to partner rescues enabling faster adoptions for the animals. There is always a need for cash donations to help pay for all the supplies that are not donated, veterinarian and medical services, as well as mortgage and utility payments. The Morgan County Commission has allocated money in the current budget to help MoCo Mutts operate although that amount is a fraction of the actual annual operating costs. Morgan County Executive Brian Langley and several of the Morgan County Commissioners have stated they will continue to support the shelter and will try to allocate additional resources if they become available. The shelter is hoping Scott County will also be able to offer some assistance in light of the Rescue’s increased support of Scott County animals.
For more information, or to volunteer, contact Lisa Hill or Tracy Wyant at (423) 628-5060.