Editor's note: Larry Obrecht, manager of Oakland County Animal Control, is saying goodbye to the cats and dogs, and to his official role at the shelter as the year comes to an end. Here, he looks back at the job he calls "rewarding" and a "privilege."
For the last nine years I have come to work every day as manager of the Oakland County Pet Adoption/Animal Control Shelter excited by the prospect of reuniting lost pets with their owners and adopting out dogs and cats to families and individuals who will provide safe, loving and nurturing environments for them. This has been my life since March of 2003, and its been a very rewarding one, but now the time has come for me to close out this chapter of my life and move on to the next one, whatever that may be.
Looking back over the the past nine years, I’m gratified by the progress that’s been made in transforming the shelter into a warm and welcoming environment where our customers know, when they walk in the front door, they will receive courteous and professional service. There are many achievements of which I’m extremely proud as I head into retirement. Leading the list is the distinction Oakland County Animal Control has earned in being No. 1 in the State of Michigan in terms of the save rate for public shelters that bring in more than 5,000 animals annually. We’re also tops, in that same numerical category, among shelters in returning pets to their owners.
When I came onboard in 2003, the save rate for dogs was 58 percent; today it’s 71 percent. In 2002, the save rate for cats was 33 percent; now it’s 56 percent. Pet owners are able to purchase dog licenses online, something that wasn’t possible 10 years ago. The number of pet adoption events held annually has increased from just two to three events per year to between seven and 10. The shelter’s media exposure was almost non-existent 10 years ago. Today we have an aggressive media relations plan in place that includes newspaper feature articles, local television and cable shows.
Social media has become an integral part of our community outreach. Pictures of pets available for adoption are posted online with a little description of each and other pertinent information is displayed to make it easier for prospective pet owners to decide if any of the choices presented are candidates to become the newest member of their families.
During my tenure, major improvements have been made at the shelter including new cages with drainage; a gazebo with dog park; outside pens; new landscaping and a beautifully remodeled lobby designed to provide a favorable first impression for our visitors.
Of course, none of the progress that’s been made could’ve been achieved without the hard work and dedication of my talented staff of 73 full-time, part-time, summer employees and jail trustees and the 600 to 700 volunteers who make themselves available to help out with special events the shelter is involved with each year like Pet-A-Palooza at the Palace of Auburn Hills; two annual cat adoption events with Pet Supplies Plus; Meet Your Best Friend at the Detroit Zoo and Pet Adoption events held at Animal Control.
Our staff is working diligently every day to increase our adoptions and our return to owner rate. We are expanding our spay/neuter program, educational sessions, beefing up our license enforcement and expanding pet adoption efforts. We are also focused on improving customer service through more intensive volunteer and employee training and bi-weekly staff meetings.
In closing, just let me say that it’s been an honor and a privilege for me to serve you, the citizens of Oakland County, first as a member of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners and for the last nine years as manager of Oakland County Pet Adoption Center & Animal Control.