BG Hamrick: Hi everybody, it’s BG Hamrick. Welcome to another episode of Local Impact, and we’re glad you’re with us today. Today I have a couple of new faces on the podcast. If you’re watching by video, you can see them; if not, you’re gonna hear them in just a moment. But, Whitney Barnhart is on the podcast with me today. Say “hello,” Whitney.
Whitney Barnhart: Hi! How are you guys doing?
BG Hamrick: Whitney joined us today. Whitney’s part of our Local Impact team, and this is her first time being on the podcast. She and I are going to share this activity a lot more often, I’m sure, together. Today, we have a great guest that she brought with her to the podcast or she reached out and invited. And, so we’re very excited to talk to Jon Davis. Jon is the Chief Humane Officer at the Putnam County Animal Shelter. Jon, want to say “hello” to you and welcome to the podcast today.
Jon Davis: Thanks for having me.
BG Hamrick: Absolutely! Glad to have both of you today. I want to talk about all things fur babies. Talk about all the wonderful animals that we all have grown to love in our lives. Jon, I know I’ve been visiting animal shelters since I was a kid. Obviously, I’ve had lots of pets in my life, and lots of animals that have been a part of growing up, and all stages of our lives. So, what you guys do at the animal shelter, and the activities and services you provide to the community are super important, and I’m thankful for what you do. But, let’s just start by talking about Jon. Can you let us know a little bit about you? How did you get to the place where you are as Chief Humane Officer there at the Putnam County Shelter?
Jon Davis: Well, I started out – I was a humane officer here for three years. And then, I left briefly. I accepted a job with the town of Belle to be a patrolman. I have a background in criminal justice, so I felt that that was what I always wanted to end up doing. And, after I had left, I received a call from the County Commission, and they offered me the lead position here. They were going to create the Chief Humane Officer position, as well as serve as Director of the Animal Shelter at the same time. So, I accepted that position. That’s been 12 years ago, I chose to come back, and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.
BG Hamrick: Awesome.
Jon Davis: I love what I do every day.
BG Hamrick: Absolutely. Well, let’s talk about that. What is it that you do every day? What is a Chief Humane Officer? What are your responsibilities, primarily?
Jon Davis: I lead the day-to-day direction of the shelter. Make sure that everything runs smoothly throughout the day here while we’re open: cleaning process, getting ready to start our day. I oversee the county’s humane officers with any calls they have. That’s just our typical day.
BG Hamrick: Yeah, got it. I understand that. When we talk about animal shelters and their impact on the community, in your opinion, Jon, what is the sole purpose of the shelter? What is it that you provide to the community that you think are the most important parts?
Jon Davis: Definitely, Public Service is the main thing. We have Animal Control Officers on call 24 hours a day to respond to emergencies. We offer animals that unwanted or stray animals that don’t have homes, we offer them to the public to re-home them. We work with rescues for animals that we can’t place locally. We always try to find local homes first, but if not, we work with rescues that we send them – we’ve sent some animals as far as Canada before to get them home, so –
BG Hamrick: Wow!
Jon Davis: – and we enjoy offering services to the public. One of the things that, when I took this lead position, that I wanted to start was a Spay-Neuter Program for low-income Putnam County residents, and we got that off the ground in 2016. That’s a donation-funded program that we offer the public. It was started by the proceeds from the Dog Job when we first started – which is our biggest fundraiser of the year. I know that’s what we were going to talk about here in a little bit. Another one we’re doing in November the Hot Diggity Dog 5k Run that funds the program as well. So, that’s some of the things we offer the public.
BG Hamrick: The animals that end up at the shelter, where do most of them come from? I know they come from a lot of different places, some are strays, some are, you know, new litters you know that you find, obviously, in the community and in the neighborhoods, but primarily, where do they come from and how do you process new animals that come into the shelter?
Jon Davis: Actually, the majority of our animals are ower-release animals. A lot of times – which people have different reasons why they would have to surrender their animals – but a lot of times it’s somebody – their family members developed an allergy to an animal, they’ve had to move suddenly, or their landlord decides that they don’t want to allow animals anymore, so that forces them to have to give the pets up. Which is always a tough decision, but as long as someone’s a Putnam County resident, we’ll take any animal in.
And, we basically observe each animal for any trace that we, you know, whether they’re food aggressive with other animals, whether they’re friendly with people or children. We evaluate all that before we place an animal up for adoption. Because number one is public safety for us, and we wouldn’t want to put an animal out there that we may consider a public danger, you know. So, any animal we put up for adoption is a friendly animal that should have no problem finding new homes.
BG Hamrick: Great. That’s a great service, and I know that I’ve even had friends who have been very saddened by the fact that, what you just mentioned, maybe somebody in the family developed an allergy or something, and a family pet has become, you know – they just can’t keep it. They can’t continue, so that’s important especially for the Putnam County area for people to be able to have that opportunity to do that. And, you know, you hear lots of horror stories about what happens to animals and where they go and euthanized and different fears that people have about shelters and that sort of thing, but your services are very important. I know you have a caring staff that loves and protects those animals as best they can.
What can the community do to help get the word out about animals? Do you guys do some promotions of animals that are available for adoption or looking for a home? What are some of the things the Putnam County Shelter does to let the public know what dogs and cats are available or what animals are available out there?
Jon Davis: We have a Facebook page that we keep updated daily with everything we have available for adoption. We do adoption events on the weekends, especially in the spring and summertime. Local businesses will have us come over and set up small adoption stations at different businesses throughout the Putnam County area. And, actually, we’ve gone into Kanawha, as well, and set up to get the word out that we’re here.
BG Hamrick: Good! That’s cool. Well, we’d love to help you do that here at Local Impact on the podcast, so make sure that we stay connected, and we’ll help inform the community, too, of what’s out there. A lot of our families have pets. We love them and continue to have pets as a big part of our lives. We love all animals. Which makes me think about Whitney now that she’s on the podcast today.
Whitney Barnhart is joining us today, and I wanted Whitney to be able to ask you about some of the events coming up because I know that’s how she got connected to you: finding some sort of event, I think, on Facebook. So, Whitney, I’ll just turn it over to you just to talk to Jon for a few minutes about the events and fundraisers coming up and how we can help.
Whitney Barnhart: Yeah, thank you so much again, Jon, for being here. Like BG said, I am a huge animal lover. I’m a cat person, but I like dogs too. So, I follow all of the local shelters on my Facebook just because I love to see the animals as I scroll. I came across your all’s sixth Annual Dog Jog that’s coming up in May, and it’s going to be virtual this year, so I was just wondering if you could explain to us what to expect. How it’s going to go, and what’s coming up!
Jon Davis: Yeah, absolutely. This year we have decided, because of the COVID situation, the Dog Jog committee decided that we’re going to try a virtual race. Runners normally meet at Valley Park for the event, but this year we’re going to have everybody doing it on their own time between May the 7th through the 9th. And, those that are going to be in the race time yourself, and you log those times in on tristateracer.com. And, from the 7th to the 9th, just for participating, everybody’s going to receive a medal and a t-shirt from the event. Normally we would have trophies for each different times, but doing this virtually, we’re unable to do that this year. So, we just decided it’d be best to issue everybody a medal for participation. The Dog Jog actually began back in 2014, and it was an idea that the committee had to raise funds for the shelter and they wanted us to come up with a specific determination of what the money was going to go for. I had had the idea for the fundraisers for a few years prior to that and was looking for a great way to get it started. That first year we had 250 runners and raised over $8,000 from the event. We had about 10 sponsors of the event, and it was a really big success. We’ve had the event every year except for 2017. We had to cancel it due to construction at Valley Park where we hold the event, and then last year of course we canceled it due to COVID. It was just too prevalent last year to risk it, so this year we decided to hold it, do it virtually, and see how we do. And so far we’re off to a good start. I think the last time I checked with them we have 25 runners signed up, and we’ve got about four or five sponsors already. But we’re still you know looking for sponsors for the event from local businesses, and we’re hoping we have a lot more people sign up at tristateracer.com for the event to participate.
Whitney Barnhart: That’s awesome! If a business wanted to sponsor you, how would they do that?
Jon Davis: Just contact me here at the shelter, and I’ll be glad to give them a sponsorship form. They just fill it out and send it in, and we’ll get them signed up.
Whitney Barnhart: Awesome! That sounds like a lot of fun. I think we should do that.
Jon Davis: Yeah all the proceeds of course benefit Putnam County Spay-Neuter Fund, and it’s what that is – I’ll get a little bit of detail on that. We’re the only shelter around that offers 100% funding for low-income residents to have their animals spayed or neutered that couldn’t afford it otherwise. We have, of course, income guidelines, and all someone needs to do is fill out an application with us and we issue a certificate to have Help for Animals in Barboursville do the surgeries for them. So far we’ve been able to help about 350 families in the Putnam County area. It’s actually, we’ve seen a big drop in the number of unwanted kittens and puppies that we’ve had come into the shelter from this. We actually got it up and running back in 2016, and this really helped the shelter out with lowering the intake of animals we see coming in. So, it’s truly a benefit to us and the public.
Whitney Barnhart: That’s awesome.
BG Hamrick: That’s great. Our agency, Local Impact, helped another organization just like what you’re offering for the services in Charleston a few years ago get kicked off. They offer spay and neutering at the Fix ‘Em Clinic in Charleston. They’re doing great work, and I got to get connected with those folks that are doing great work down there to learn about the importance of controlling that population. Because that’s key to overwhelming our community with unwanted animals, so I get that, and I think that is awesome some 350 people who have been helped by that. That’s incredible. We should continue to promote that portion as well to let people know that if you’re at a certain income level, and you just can’t afford to get your animals spayed or neutered that you can reach out to the Putnam County Animal Shelter and see if you qualify to make sure that you can be a part of receiving that service. I think that’s fantastic. One of my favorite things that I think you offer as a service. Whitney, did you have any other events or outreaches that you wanted to talk about?
Whitney Barnhart: That was the only event I saw coming up. Jon, do you guys have anything else that you’d like to talk about that you guys have coming up?
Jon Davis: Right now that’s the only event we have have coming up.
Whitney Barnhart: So everybody will have to follow your Facebook page to see anything else that comes up, right?
Jon Davis: Yeah, as soon as we have something scheduled, we always post on there to keep the public notified.
BG Hamrick: Well I know besides the fundraisers there are obviously needs that you have on a daily and weekly and monthly basis there. I know we have been a part of blanket drives; we’ve donated food in the past. We’ve done lots of things that I’ve been personally involved in. What are some of the most pressing needs that you guys always have at the shelter that other people in the community could help with? Whether it be volunteering time or volunteering food or some other need that you have?
Jon Davis: We’re always in need of both. We accept volunteers anytime right now. With the COVID situation, we just ask those that are willing to volunteer to call ahead of time because we’re only allowing one group or individual within a two-hour time frame. That way we can keep the number of people at a lower level without having too many people in the building at one time. But we always can use the help whether it’s working with dogs or walking animals or cleaning. We can always use the help. All they have to contact us. And we’re always in need of supplies such as dry dog and cat food, cleaning supplies – especially like bleach, pine cleaner, paper towels, liquid laundry and dish detergent, window cleaner anything like that we can always use.
BG Hamrick: Great. That’s fantastic, and Jon how can people get in touch with you for any reason? For reaching out, what are the best ways to reach you for adoption, or for volunteering for donations, or to sign up even to be a sponsor or to be a part of this upcoming event the Dog Jog?
Jon Davis: They can get in contact with me through the shelter’s Facebook page. Just send us a private message there. They can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or just give us a call anytime at 304-586-0249.
BG Hamrick: Well, Jon, I tell you. Thank you so much for being on here, and brother we’re happy to have you as part of this. Would you consider coming back again when other events are on the calendar for you guys and be a part of the podcast?
Jon Davis: Absolutely; I’d love to.
BG Hamrick: Awesome. That’s great. Appreciate all the work that you’re doing and appreciate everything that you’re giving back to this community.
I want to encourage all of our listeners and viewers to make sure that you reach out to be a part of this upcoming event. If you can’t be a part of the event itself there are so many other ways you can be involved in the Putnam County Animal Shelter. So many things you can do. Our community could use your help, and they could use your support at all times. If you’re looking for a wonderful companion in life, if you’re looking for a new pet for your family or maybe for a child, reach out to Jon. Contact them on their Facebook page. Make sure you get connected with them and let them know what you’re needing and I’m sure they’ll be able to connect you with a great animal that will be a part of your family and part of your home and bring lots of joy to your lives. Jon, again thanks for being a part of the podcast today.
Jon Davis: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
BG Hamrick: Whitney, thanks for being here, as well. I’m looking forward to working with you on future podcasts. I think we’ll have a lot of fun together, and she’ll keep me light-hearted. Because I get a little bit professional, and so she’ll keep the walls down and I appreciate that! Everybody, thanks for watching. Again, Jon, thanks for being a part of the podcast.
We’ll see you next time.