By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
Between phone calls, e-mails, and in-person visits, Animal Control Officer Felicia Camara estimates that more than 500 people have asked about adopting Axel.
The four-month-old Applehead Chihuaha has become a local celebrity since he was found by the side of Draper Avenue in late February during a snowstorm. Axel’s former owner, 24-year-old Dominique Scott of Pawtucket, R.I., has been arrested on one charge of animal cruelty. In police reports, Scott said she didn’t understand the level of care that a dog would need.
One day while Scott was driving her car, Axel made a mess in the vehicle. According to reports, Scott described this as the breaking point, after which she allegedly left the dog by the side of the road. Axel was found the next day by someone walking their own dog.
At first, Axel wasn’t available for adoption, as he had to get extensive medical care. But on March 25, the process officially began and the shelter soon became inundated with calls and e-mails. Camara said that calls came in so frequently, the answering machine shut off automatically. On March 27, she posted an announcement saying that only e-mailed inquiries could be accepted. The process was ended earlier this week due to the vast number of applications.
“We’ve gone as far north as Quebec, as far south as the Carolinas. inquiries and applications from the Midwest, and as far west as Oregon and Washington,” said Camara on Friday.
It’s a response that Camara has never seen before, and she attributes this in part to the media coverage. But it’s also that Axel’s story that has connected with so many—being found in a dog carrier, malnourished, and suffering from mange and worms.
“They want to make sure that his forever home is perfect,” said Camara.
The application process covers a lot of ground. If the applicant doesn’t own a home, the shelter staff check with the landlord to see if pets are allowed. They check to see what pets the applicant already owns and if they’re well cared for. Shelter staff also ask if the owner already owns pets and if they take on the care of another.
“You have to weed out the good and the bad (applicants),” said Camara. “We know if someone has six dogs should you add another one? That’s something I take into consideration.”
The ACO has found that abandoned animals tend to receive more adoption applications because people can’t fathom how someone could do that. She said these people want to save the animal, give it a good home and lots of love.
“He (the pet) never has to worry about being cold and alone,” she said. “You know, us as humans, it’s one of the basic things is that we want to protect.”
During Axel’s care he also became the unofficial mascot of the North Attleborough Police Department. Office Julie Lowe investigated the case, and often posted pictures of the adorable dog to social media. Dog beds, food and water bowls, and toys can be found in the NAPD Records and Court Officer’s offices. She said that him being at the station has been a help to those in law enforcement, giving them some comfort when they have a bad day.
“The thing about animals is cats, dogs, irregardless of how bad your day was, you come home and there’s this cute little thing who is so happy to see you. You can’t help but smile,” said Camara. “It’s so comforting. It’s so comforting to see a grown person on the floor interacting with them.”
All the attention for Axel has also benefited the shelter, said Camara, bringing awareness of the many animals they have there, but also to the deplorable crime of abandoning a pet. She said that people know more about their options if they can’t keep a pet, which is a big help.
“What I would love nothing more is what people take away from this,” said Camara. “Just because they weren’t awarded Axel, maybe they will award another homeless animal a forever home.”
The North Attleborough Animal Shelter has several animals available for adoption, including guinea pigs, rabbits, cats, and dogs. To inquire about these pets, call 508-699-0128 or email Fcamara@nattleboro.com.