Fort Riley, Kansas



Pawsitive Reinforcement

By Suet Lee-Growney | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | September 29, 2017

     “Oh, you’re fine,” said Nicole Storm, lead and co­ordinator at the Fort Riley Stray Facility, as she gently turned the ear flap of a 9-week-old kitten to clean it with a cotton swab. The young feline let out a small meow and gave in. In a few deft strokes, the ordeal was over and the kitten shook its head and was back to its skittish demeanor.

     Caring, feeding, walking, petting, cleaning, catching up with paperwork and more are some of the many tasks Storm and her co-workers Adriana Waddell and Susan Buckley, both animal caretakers, per­form at the shelter.

     Matt Enoch, Direc­torate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation community program coordinator, said the team strives to make the stray facility a clean and safe space for animals to be and people to come.

    “I’d like to make light of how hard these guys work,” Enoch said. “Their day isn’t just the time period they’re opened. They come in ear­ly, clean, feed and walk the animals. After they close the doors, they stay to clean, feed and walk the animals. It’s a constant. Before we began operating this shelter, I have never been in an animal shel­ter in my life, so I don’t know anything about it, instead it’s a whole new experience for me. Fortunately we hired excellent, capable people who know ex­actly what they’re doing. I’ve seen that running a shelter is a lot more than bringing in the animals, putting them in ken­nels until someone comes to pick them up. There is a real art to it and it’s really, really hard work. It’s dirty, smelly; special people do this job and we are lucky to have this facil­ity and these professionals do­ing this job.”

     Storm and Waddell have been working together at the shelter since it started running independently this summer. Previously, the facility was a part of Veterinary Services, but starting fiscal year 2017, the Army transferred the respon­sibility of sheltering animals to Installation Management Command.

     “Shelter responsibilities was and have always been Vet Ser­vices, and now it’s IMCOM,” Enoch said. “When IMCOM became responsible for animal shelters, it subordinated the ani­mal shelter duties to Directorate of Public Works, this is Army-wide. Here at Fort Riley, DPW worked an MOA (memoran­dum of agreement) with MWR to essentially fund MWR to manage the animal shelter.”

     After the change of respon­sibility was made, the kennels were moved from the Vet Ser­vices facility to the building next door at 224 Custer Ave. Medical Department Activ­ity then renovated part of the building into an animal shelter equipped with 23 kennels for dogs and 23 kennels for cats.

     “Once U.S. Army MED­DAC completed the renovation, we transferred all the animals from Vet Services next door over here,” Enoch said. “We, be­ing MWR, began operating the shelter on June 1 of this year.”

     The stray facility, now be­ing part of MWR, has the same goals as the program, which is to enhance the lives of Soldiers and families in the Fort Riley community. The way the shel­ter provides this service is by being the Fort Riley resource for all things pet related.

     “Our focus here is tak­ing care of our Soldiers and our families, who live here on Fort Riley, and making sure they have a safe, professional location to drop off animals that they found, they can sur­render animals here, they can adopt animals and we have an excellent, excellent team here that takes care of the animals” Enoch said. “The (military po­lice) capture animals 24 hours a day and bring them here. If we’re not open and MPs should capture animals, they can leave them here overnight.”

     Apart from being a resource to Fort Riley residents, the staff at the shelter work hand-in-hand with DPW and Vet Ser­vices to provide proper care for the animals.

     “DPW provides us with supplies that we need like dog food, cat food and other sup­plies we need to run a shelter” Enoch said. “They purchase equipment for us. DPW is funding everything; they’re pay­ing for our labor — everything. Vet Services provides care for the animals that we have.”

      Enoch added he hopes with the stray facility fully function­ing on post, they can be a good community partner to the sur­rounding Kansas area, such as Geary and Riley Counties.

     “Because we are helping our community here at Fort Riley take care of its animal popula­tion and it takes the pressure off our neighboring commu­nities,” he said. “Our hope is that we will see less incidents of stray animals in surrounding communities.”

      Storm said they work close­ly with the shelters off post and keep open communication with them.

     “If people look for some­thing specific, like a small dog, and we don’t have it, we actu­ally send people to check out the surrounding shelters like Manhattan (Kansas), like Junc­tion City (Kansas),” she said. “Most of the rescues we work with and we actually work real­ly close with the Junction City shelter as well … we shelters have to communicate in order to make things work.”

     Enoch added they are “not in competition with Manhat­tan or Junction City or any­where else.” Instead he said they are “partners more than competitors.” This working relationship is crucial among animal facilities in the area because there have been cases irregularity during surrender processes.

     “There is a dark side to car­ing for stray animals,” Enoch said. “There are people who do bad things with animals, treat them badly, they’re not good owners and they’re not honest individuals. So it makes it very important for these animal care professionals to communi­cate with one another because if somebody comes here and tries to do some nonsense with an animal, and (Fort Riley Stray Facility) don’t allow it, they’re going to go right down to Junction City and try the same thing — and vice versa. And that’s what we’re trying to say why communication is so important.”



      As of the second week of September, the stray facility has waived the fee to surren­der any animal that is allowed on post, which includes pet rodents, fish, birds and tur­tles. Enoch said the surrender fee has been done away with “to make things easier instead of dropping them off at a local community somewhere.”

      Storm said the only thing people have to do is go through the process of turn­ing in an animal.

     “To surrender an animal, your best bet is to always call us first to see if we have space available,” Storm said. “We will ask you a few ques­tions about the animal, about breed, what age, if they have any aggression history and if we have room available we can take the animal. They can bring them either that day or the next day whenever it’s best for them.”

      Waddell said the shelter typically will set up an ap­pointment prior to taking a surrender.

      “We usually try to set up an appointment, so that when we know they’re coming we can have a kennel prepared and have everything ready,” she said.

      According to Storm, if pets are not surrendered through the formal channels, such as a shelter, they are usually abandoned.

     “A lot of times the reason people dump animals is that they’re ashamed,” Storm said. “Sometimes it’s just easier for people just to let (the animal) go and let somebody else deal with it.”

      But Enoch said it is the Fort Riley Stray Facility’s goal to de­tach the negative stigma associ­ated with animal surrenders.

     “We want to encourage people that it’s okay, it’s the best thing to do when you have an animal that you can’t care for or don’t want to take care for, is to bring them here,” he said.

     Storm stresses the shelter’s biggest concern is the welfare of the animal and so long as the owner is willing to come forward, the shelter will do their best to work with the ani­mal and “make a success out of them.”

      If a Fort Riley resident wishes to surrender a pet, they cannot take it to an off-post shelter. They must take it to the shelter servicing their resi­dential area.

     “When someone who lives in Fort Riley goes to Geary County to surrender an ani­mal, they can’t take (the ani­mal) because they service peo­ple who live in Geary County,” Enoch said.

     Storm said similarly, the stray facility on post does not take civilian surrenders.



     Most of the animals, if they are caught up on their medi­cal checkups and vaccinations, are open for adoption. Storm said anyone interested will first have to answer a few questions.

     “They have to fill out an application, which is just a few simple questions like where they live, how many animals they have, if they have re­homed before, if they have surrendered to us before and if they have adopted from us,” she said. “Usually as soon as the animal is ready for adop­tion, we will call them. If the animal already ready, we usu­ally wait 24 to 48 hours to call the potential adopter back.”

     Storm said the reason there is a 24 to 48 hours wait before adoption applicants are con­tacted is to give the potential animal owner some time to reconsider their commitment.

     “We just like to give them a little bit of buffer to rethink, to prepare and because we have people who say ‘hey, it was impulsive that I want that dog and then I don’t think I’m ready,’” Storm said.

      With that wait window in the adoption process, she said their “return rate decreased drastically” and have had less than 5 percent returns.

     All adoptions come with microchip, deworming, rabies and canine distemper vacci­nations, feline viral rhinotra­cheitis, calicivirus and panleu­kopenia vaccination for cats; feline leukemia and feline aids test for cats and heartworm test for dogs. An unaltered dog and puppy adoption fee is $82 and an unaltered cat and kitten is $62. However, if they have been spayed by Vet Services, fees for a female dog is $162 and $142 for a cat. Similarly, if Vet Services neuters a male, it would increase the adoption fees for a male dog $142 and $92 for a male cat.

     Waddell has adopted her pets from the stray facility and from shelters off post. She notes the biggest difference in choos­ing an animal from Fort Riley is it is already used to the sounds of a military installation.

     “One big thing I’ve noticed, because I’ve adopted from here and I’ve adopted from some­where else, the one I got from somewhere else, he wasn’t used to the noises on post,” she said. “When you first move here, you don’t realize how much booms and bangs and differ­ent things you hear from a distance. The one I got from somewhere else, he’s terrified. And the other one, he’s already used to it, so he just looks at me ‘why is (the other animal) freaking out?’”



     The Fort Riley Stray Facil­ity staff encourages everyone in the community to follow their Facebook page at www.Face­ for information, events, remind­ers, animals available for adop­tion, hours, missing animals, stray information and more.

     “We are actually on it daily, several times, all three of us,” Storm said. “We constantly an­swer questions, emails.”

     Storm said the shelter’s so­cial media page also serves as a place to release immediate information, such as disease outbreaks on post.

     “If there’s any disease out­breaks like right now with the distemper,” she said. “So we send out a little reminder how important it is to vaccinate your animal.”

     The stray facility also serves as a place where pet owners can look up pet requirements and regulations on Fort Riley.

     “We also post what the re­quirements on post are, like if animals have to be up to date on rabies and distemper parvo, if they have to be mi­crochipped and that they have to be registered with Vet Ser­vices,” Storm said.

      Waddell added even if people are uninterested in adopting, following them can be beneficial. It is through the shelter’s Facebook page, many animals had the opportunity to go home to their owners.

     “With our Facebook page, I’d like to stress to people that even if you’re not looking to adopt, it’s a good thing to have if you already have pets,” Wad­dell said. “Because if for some reason your pet gets lost, it’ll be posted there immediately and we can get guys reunited faster.”

      Storm said she and Waddell try to be available to the community at all times.

     “We are always here,” she said. “If people have questions, just message us on Facebook, give us a call, if we can, we will answer in a very timely manner.”

     Volunteers interested in helping out at the shelter can pick up an application at Fort Riley Stray Facility, 224 Custer Ave. from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the weekends. The facility is closed Wednesdays. Completed applications can be turned into Becky Willis at Army Community Services.

    Although the shelter is closed Wednesdays, they are still able to do return-to-owners if they are updated on their vaccination and microchipped.

     “Otherwise, we’d have to go through Vet Services,” Waddell said.


Tag Veterinary Services