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Jacksonville shelter aims to be no-kill model as new center opens

Director says maintaining status with fewer resources is possible

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dogs and cats waiting for adoption in Jacksonville just got some new digs. 

The Jacksonville Humane Society cut the ribbon Thursday night on its new Adoption, Education and Community Resource Center, which aims to give pets a a comfortable place to stay while they wait for a “fur”-ever home.

The no-kill shelter plans to be a model for other shelters across the country.

A decade after a fire destroyed the previous shelter, the Jacksonville Humane Society moved from portable buildings to a new $15 million adoption center, which was mostly paid for by donors.

It's triple the size of the previous buildings with more kennels, suites for dogs and cats, and multi-use space for meetings and training classes.

"We achieved no-kill back in 2014, working out of those awful trailers and a terrible environment,” executive director Denise Deisler said. “As proud as we are of this building, we're a great lesson in, 'You can make it happen without the resources.' We did."

Deisler said it's all about using the resources a shelter has efficiently.

"In our early days, it was important to look at every single penny we spent and say, 'How does this contribute to saving animals' lives?' and if we didn't, we stopped spending it,” Deisler said.

For example, the shelter changed times the adoption center is open to make it more convenient for families. 

Deisler said she understands most shelters are struggling with low funding. When people ask how Jacksonville became a successful no-kill city, she points to the community and its investment in the shelter's work.

Gaining support from volunteers and foster families throughout the community helped build the program to what it is today, she said.  

JHS plans to use its new facility to host and train shelter staff from across the country to broaden the no-kill status.

No-kill means treatable and healthy animals brought in are not euthanized, and the shelter must maintain a 90-percent or higher live release rate. At last check, Nassau County Animal Control is the newest shelter in Northeast Florida working to maintain a no-kill status. 

From January to August of this year, Putnam County Animal Control euthanized the least amount of dogs and cats at 16, while St. Johns County Animal Control euthanized 801. Clay County Animal Control euthanized 213.

News4Jax is still waiting to get the numbers from Baker County. 

Jacksonville Humane Society and Nassau County Animal Care and Control are the no-kill shelters on the list. JHS euthanized 85 cats and dogs in that span, and Nassau County put down 83.

Northeast Florida residents can help by adopting or fostering an animal from their local shelter.

For more on JHS and its new facility, visit the shelter's website.