Working with animals requires heart, dedication, hard work, willingness to learn and a desire to make a difference.
Navasota Animal Shelter is using youthful leadership to achieve new goals in 2023. The shelter is staffed by two animal control officers and a committed volunteer, all under 21. They have seen the shelter in less than ‘purr-fect’ condition but they are clawing forward to aid animals and provide a great service to the community.
Stevie Widders moved to Navasota two years ago to escape the rising cost of living in College Station. She managed a coffee shop and began volunteering at Navasota Animal Shelter in April 2022.
An animal control officer position opened in September and Widders was encouraged to apply. Although hesitant, she traded coffee grinds for the daily grind of an ACO. Widders worked four months before another young ACO was hired.
Anthony Robbins, a 2021 graduate of Iola High School, began working as a jailer for Grimes County. His goal is to be a patrol officer, so when he had the opportunity to become an ACO he jumped at the opportunity to get his paw in the door. “I wanted something to help further my law enforcement endeavors,” said Robbins.
Bailey Schelsteder is a volunteer from Richards who attends Anderson-Shiro High School. She takes several livestock classes and even operates her own rescue for bottle calves.
While at a free adoption event in Brenham, Scheldsteder met Widders. “Once I met her I knew that is probably what I wanted to do,” explained Scheldsteder. “When I heard I could be an animal control officer and take animals off the street or help them from being abused, it changed me. Stevie suggested I volunteer first before jumping right in.” A few weeks later she applied and was accepted as a volunteer.
The shelter currently houses approximately 40 dogs and six cats. There have been around 10 adoptions since Widders began Sept. 2022. In 2023 the shelter would like to see adoptions and fosters increase.
Widders said it has been easier for cats to be adopted than dogs. “Some of the dogs we rescue grew up in broken areas and tend to be a little more aggressive,” she explained. The team is planning ways to increase adoptions through adoption events, social media promotions etc.
With a small staff and an abundance of animals, it is difficult to give each animal adequate one-on-one time. That time can help change the demeanor of the animals. Widders said volunteers are always needed.
Job duties of an ACO are more than just cleaning kennels, feeding animals, wound care etc. They respond to an array of animal calls including strays, escaped livestock, civil matters etc. Robbins said one of his first calls were goats loose at the underpass of Spur 515. ACO’s also have to remove dead animals from roadways. Volunteers will help with animal interaction at the shelter.
One of the big pushes in 2023 is to increase donations. All donations are appreciated; however, the shelter has specific needs. To ease donations the shelter has implemented an Amazon Wish List account, https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1VF0T3SWLH8FH?ref_=wl_share.
The shelter is also raising funds to purchase a large storage container to alleviate space needs and increase organization. They unit desired will include LED lights and will store dog food, kennels, crates, etc. Estimated cost for the container is $3,500.
For more information about Navasota Animal Shelter, to inquire about adoptions, volunteer opportunities or donations call 936-825-6441.