The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Exotic pet room will expand and get makeover

Valdez Animal Shelter programs expanding under the new ACO


April 15, 2015

Valdez Star photo

Animal control officer Rich Long holds one of the resident ferrets at the Valdez Animal Shelter. Long is leading an effort to improve on the shelter's facilities, including its pet education room.

Big changes are coming to the Valdez Animal Shelter – and its new management wants you to get involved.

In addition to fresh paint and the usual spring cleaning, Rich Long, the new animal control officer, is hoping people in Valdez will hop on the bandwagon.

His goal is simple.

"Revamp the animal shelter so it's better for the animals period," he said in an interview last week.

That does not mean its current configuration is bad. Long just thinks it can be better. Much better.

"It's adequate," he said "but what we have now is not being utilized to its best."

The goal is to restructure the volunteer program to include training and incentives and expand and improve the pet education room that houses exotic pets such as koi, iguanas and ferrets as permanent residents is at the forefront of his vision.

Long is inviting new and past volunteers to get involved with shelter operations. He is structuring a training program that will allow volunteers to bring whatever talents they have to improve the lives of the animals – whether they are up for adoption, temporarily housed there due to emergencies or are part of the education program.

"We are always wanting volunteers to do things on a day to day basis," he said, in addition to special projects.

To kick off the efforts, Long and Alissa Jones, the shelter's attendant, are hosting a luncheon for current or future volunteers May 16.

"We're going to do an open house," Long said, which will include selling excess inventory or even donated items which the shelter does not currently need.

Opportunities to volunteer are not confined to actually working with animals. While volunteers that can walk dogs, interact with cats and other traditional shelter functions are always welcome, the facility's flower beds need to be rebuilt and replanted, inventories taken and a large project is also in the works to expand the housing for the exotic pets in the education room.

The room, tucked into the back of the shelter, is underutilized and needs improvement Long said.

Current plans underway call for expanding the project to a second room, where resident fish and reptiles will be housed in more natural surroundings that are visually appealing and healthier for the pets and more accessible to visitors.

The education component of the exotic pet room gives visitors a hands-on experience with many of the animals. It was originally designed to give potential pet owners a chance to interact with exotic pets and learn about their care – and eventual sizes.

Animals such as goldfish, iguanas and snakes are often sold in pet stores when they are only a few inches long and buyers are often unaware that iguanas reach up to six feet in length when fully grown, and goldfish can reach over a foot in length.

Valdez Star photo

Shelter attendant Alissa Jones, left, and ACO Rich Long, right, check out the ball python that lives at the pet education room at the Valdez Animal Shelter.

New plans also call for holding workshops on the care of exotic pets.

The projects, which Long hopes will be completed before September, will require additional manpower – and funding.

Preliminary designs for an expanded iguana habitat – the shelter's resident iguana Fairbanks is outgrowing her current home – and an indoor pond for the koi, are underway. New habitats for the other reptiles are also included in the design.

The current exotic pet room will be remodeled for birds and mammals and will include not only resident animals, but nontraditional pets that are surrendered for adoption.

Anyone looking for more information is encouraged to call the shelter or drop by during its regular business hours.


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