SHAFTSBURY -- Framed photos line the light green walls of the Second Chance Animal Center, showing dogs and cats currently waiting for their "forever homes."
National Shelter Dog Adoption Month is held in October each year, and Second Chance, also known as the Bennington County Humane Society, is reducing adoption costs and hoping to place some of its seven dogs and more than 110 cats with permanent, loving families.
"We make recommendations, based on their personalities," said Kate Ernst, office manager at the shelter. "But every animal is looking for their forever family."
Known to the staff as "American shelter dogs," each canine that crosses the doors of the 6779 Route 7A location is rehabilitated, spayed or neutered and brought up-to-date with shots and necessary medicine, regardless of their official breed.
"Unless they come in with papers saying otherwise, we don't try to guess the breed. We treat them all the same," said Ernst, of the affectionate term.
They receive microchips and undergo temperament tests, in the hope that they will someday be matched with "the right" owners.
Since January, 269 cats and kittens have been adopted, and 126 dogs and puppies have found new homes. But the number without forever families is much higher.
So far this year, 470 cats have been taken in by the nonprofit, which employs six full-time and 10 part-time staff members.
"We don't receive any funding," said Ernst. "Not state, not county, not city.
That may be for the best, since according to staff, if funding were received they would likely be forced to euthanize some of the animals due to space restraints.
As it is, they operate as a "low-kill shelter," putting dogs and cats down only when disease or sickness requires it, and never because of space issues.
Endowments, along with private donations, are what keep the shelter open.
"For any reason, if any of our animals need to be returned because they're not a good fit, we ask that they are returned to us," said Elizabeth Ricketts, kennel supervisor. "That way we know our animals are still being cared for."
While some of the "teenage" cats looking for homes are kept in crates, many of the older, more relaxed residents are allowed to roam free in large sunlit rooms.
Connected to an outside enclosed area by cat doors, the older cats share their pick of beds and carpet-covered scratch posts, often wrestling on the floor or curled up on a shelf near the ceiling.
"We had a 16-year-old cat adopted last week," said Ernst, noting that while it may not happen often, older cats make good pets and can still find permanent homes.
"Most of the dogs who are here have been here a while," said Ernst, playing with a large, outgoing young dog named Hobbs.
Two years old, Hobbs doesn't like baths but manages to avoid the water by getting a dry foam cleaning instead.
Like the other pets in the shelter, "He needs an owner who can spend time and attention with him," said Ricketts.
In recognition of Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, both dogs and cats are available for adoption until Oct. 31 at a lowered rate. Senior dogs, or those age 7 and older, are adoptable at no cost.
The fee for adoptions is: adult dogs, $75; puppies, $100; cats, $40; kittens, $60.
To donate or for questions on adopting a new pet, call 802-375-2898; visit www.2ndChanceAnimalShelter.org or find Second Chance Animal Shelter on Facebook. To volunteer or foster a pet temporarily, contact Maureen Stadnik, volunteer coordinator at the shelter.
Email Khynna at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @khynnakat.