The North Attleborough Animal Shelter has recently been certified as a no-kill and fear free shelter due to the dedication by the town’s Animal Control Officer, Felicia Camara, the staff and volunteers.
Camara became part of the team at the animal shelter in May of 2019. She stated that she has had an incredible journey with the shelter and found it to be the best job in the world, due to all of the animal lovers in the local North Attleborough community and their support for the shelter.
This passion is what led Camara and her co-workers to implementing a fear free environment in the shelter. For the shelter to be fear free, “It means that we go above and beyond to make sure that the animal is always comfortable,” Camara said. “We make sure that they acclimate. We make sure when we go into a cage with an animal if they’re showing signs of fight or flight, we step back. We give them a chance to decompress. We don’t use aggressive tactics to go get an animal.”
She also tries to implement fear free tactics when catching an animal. Camara said that when she’s catching a loose animal, she will always use her leash and take as long as the animal needs to get them on it. She will only use the catch pole if she doesn’t have time to do it slowly or for public safety concerns.
The shelter’s passion for the animals is also why they choose to be a no-kill shelter. According to Camara, “So one of the things that we will never do is we will never kill an animal to make room in the shelter.”
She stated that the only time that the shelter will put an animal down is when they develop a sickness or injury that they can never recover from and when a vet states that it’s in the best interest of the animal.
Treating the animals right
Part of creating the desired environment at the animal shelter comes down to how they treat the animal.
“We just make them feel welcome and loved,” said Camara. “Every animal in here, my staff, my volunteers and I treat them as if they’re our own pets.”
Camara doesn’t feel that just because they’ve gotten certified as fear free and no-kill that the shelter’s work is anywhere close to done.
“Even though they say that we’re certified you’re really never certified because there’s always ways that you can improve,” Camara said.
To her, learning to improve in any way is the most important way to keep the shelter a positive environment for the animals.
“Every day you will learn, is every day I’m one step closer to making sure that another animal doesn’t have to suffer again,” she said.
In order to remain a no-kill shelter, Camara relies on a multitude of things including donations from non-profit benefactor, Friends of the North Attleboro Animal Shelter. It’s not just the benefactors that make it possible to be a no-kill shelter.
“My staff, the volunteers, everyone that comes in here every day and works and cleans and medicates, and monitors. They help me stay a no kill shelter,” she stated. “So it’s not just me. It is an intricate part of everybody helping make the shelter be a no kill shelter.”
Testing for the certifications
Camara found out about the fear free program at the New England Humane Society Convention in Hartford, Connecticut. She completed the program first by finishing modules and getting quizzed throughout on different ways to gain the animal’s trust. Camara said she enjoyed the experience and had the rest of her staff complete it as well.
However, the things taught in the fear free program weren’t new to Camara.
“I already was implementing it,” she said. “So, by taking it and showing it to my staff and making them understand, listen, these are the techniques that we’re going to use and our animals are going to be happier in the end.”
Being able to share the fear free program with her colleagues made her believe she was taking the right steps for the future.
At the same conference, the organization, Best Friends Save Them All, helped Camara to get the shelter certified as no-kill. They told her to register and fill out a survey that would reward the shelter’s nonprofit organization with a $3000 grant.
“And to my surprise, in October this plaque came and they determined that we were a no kill shelter on a national level,” she said. “On a local level we always knew, in the bottom of my heart that I never killed to make room for an animal and that my staff and our volunteers always went above and beyond irregardless of the cost or the time that it took because whether you’re human or animal, the most important thing that you need is time, unconditional love, and patience.”
Being certified as no-kill was a great experience for Camara who stated, “I opened it up and I literally started crying like a baby. It was it is the most amazing feeling to get recognized on a national level.”
Having these two certifications have been a great benefit to the animal shelter. The certifications have also helped the shelter gain recognition with them getting calls from as far away as New York, according to Camara.
Camara said, “It helps by bringing us more visitors, more adopters because most people that would rather adopt than shop would rather come to a shelter that their main concern is the animal, that the animal is the number one priority.”
To be certified as fear free means everything to Camara because it means the animals will never have to fear being hungry, cold, lacking medical care, suffering.
“These guys will always have a roof over their head a place to sleep,” she said. “Medical care, you name it, their home until it’s their time to get up and move into another permanent living home.”