LAWTON, Okla._For the first time in the history of Lawton Animal Welfare, it has reached a "no kill" status.
In order to qualify for that designation, a shelter must have at least a 90 percent success rate. That success rate comes from adoptions, pets being reunited with owner, rescue pulls or other ways that the animals are kept alive. During the month of November, Lawton Animal Welfare achieved a 96.61 success rate for the month of November.
Shelters with a 90-100 percent success rate are designated as 'no kill,' 60-89.99 percent are 'low kill' and 0-59.99 percent are 'high kill.'
The animal shelter came under fire for chemically castrating animals, faced controversy for not having a full-time veterinarian and alleged neglect of the animals. Now, it is a whole new story with all the changes that have been made since then.
"It's almost indescribable the feeling that I get from where we came from not even a year ago to where we are today," said Russell Anderson, Lawton Animal Welfare superintendent.
Since he took over December 2014, Anderson says it hasn't been an easy road to get to 'no kill' status.
"There are great days and there are bad days. When your animal that you have invested so much time into gets selected to be euthanized because now he's just come down with kennel cough for the third time and he has been passed over and passed over it crushes you," Anderson said.
Anderson says his goal is to fight against those defeats in any way that he can. He says a contributing factor of the shelter's growing success is the community's interaction on Facebook.
"When I would first post a picture of an animal a little over a year ago…I maybe got five shares. If you go look today some of them have 20- 25 shares. There have been some that have had over a hundred shares just for one animal," Anderson said.
Another change for the shelter is that every dog taken into the shelter is given a five-in-one vaccination to prevent common K-9 diseases. Lawton Assistant City Manager Jim Russell says previously, the veterinarian only spayed and neutered the animals.
"Actually do observations of every animal that comes in. He does a health check and makes sure that animal is healthy. If there are any potential injuries or any potential illness or sickness. He is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Russell said.
In the last several months, donations have been made which allowed them to seal the adoption floor so it can be properly cleaned to keep animals healthy. A brand new industrial drier was purchased to give the cats and dogs clean bedding.
Anderson says his biggest hope for the future of the shelter is that it continues to take positive steps forward, especially retaining the 'no kill' status from month to month.
"They said it was impossible to do it once. I want to do it twice. As a matter of a fact, I want to do it a third time. You know, I want to keep pushing until we can't push anymore," Anderson said.
The number of lives saved speaks for itself. November 2014, 227 animals were euthanized compared to only 22 November 2015.