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Putting Their Best Paw Forward

Written by Shireen Abbasey Haynes.

Rochester Animal Services takes in approximately 2,000 dogs and 1,600 cats per year. Most are strays, some are surrenders and a few are brought in by the Rochester Police Department (RPD) because of warrants or arrests. No matter how these animals come in, each one is treated with love and kindness from the staff and volunteers.

When you adopt from Rochester Animal Services, you are adopting an animal that has been prepped for life in a home. A lot of time and effort by staff and volunteers goes into making sure that our animals put their best paw forward. Upon intake, our Animal Control Officers (ACOs) or Animal Care Techs (ACTs) make an assessment of the animal’s condition and give vaccinations. Some animals may appear sick and require medical isolation. Some may be scared and require extra attention. The ACOs/ACTs log the animal in and provide them with an identification band.

Animals are then assessed by our medical staff to make sure they are healthy and have no communicable diseases that may be spread to other animals or people. Animals in need of medical care beyond our shelter’s capabilities may be transferred to other rescue partners to receive the attention and care they need.

Dogs are assessed via a behavioral evaluation which encompasses a number of factors such as aggression, sociability, personal touch/handling and food. There is no behavioral assessment for cats. Scared or unsocialized cats are often referred to rescues or foster homes so that they may learn appropriate behavior in the home setting.

The shelter environment can be scary and overwhelming for many animals. While an animal waits for its happy ever after, our staff and volunteers provide a number of positive interactions so that their stay can be as least stressful as possible. Cat and dog enrichment teams provide sensory stimulation meant to reduce stress. Enrichment can be treat-related such as frozen Kongs (puzzle feeders filled with frozen kibble and peanut butter) for dogs or catnip for cats. It can be auditory such as classical music or sound machines with bird noises, heart beats, etc. Sprays and balms with calming pheromones also are used. And finally, petting and handling by staff and volunteers provides the physical touch that animals find comforting.

Some dogs, in particular, may not fare well in the shelter environment and don’t know how to relieve their stress. For this, we have our Stress Team, these are volunteers that have particular training and knowledge of canine behavior so that they can provide an outlet for these dogs. Our Play Yard is also a great way for staff, volunteers and prospective adopters to see a dog’s true personality. Some dogs may not show as well in their kennel but when they get to the play yard and can run around and be a dog, well, their personalities shine right through. The Play Yard has been a wonderful asset for us and so many adopters have found “the one” because of it.

By law, stray animals without identification (microchip, tag, collar, etc) must be held for five days. If an animal comes in with identification, they are held for ten days. The law, however, requires a minimum of seven days. Once an animal is cleared for adoption, it is placed on the adoption floor.

Everyone feels better after a good haircut and it’s no different for the animals in our care. Our staff and volunteer groomer may shave mats or cut nails. Many volunteers will bathe a dog in need. Once these animals are primped and looking their best, our superb photography team will capture their images in ways that enhance the animals’ personalities in the best light possible. Check out our website at to see our adoptable animals and their adorable pictures.

A team of volunteers will also write profiles for the website that include the animal’s history (if known), their estimated age and a little bit about their personalities or what we have learned about them so far. The profiles and pictures coupled together are frequently what attract potential adopters to a particular animal in the first place.

You will often see our adoptable animals and volunteers at festivals, pet stores and other events around town. Our Events Team gives the animals exposure outside of the shelter and allows people who otherwise might not venture to Verona Street the opportunity to meet our amazing dogs and cats.

We know that you have a choice of many different places to adopt a new furry friend so we do our utmost to provide you with the best information possible so you can make an informed decision about which animal will best fit into your home and family life. Thank you for choosing Rochester Animal Services!