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Saving strays in Mitchell

John Harcinske, a volunteer with Mitchell Animal Rescue, holds one of the cats held at the pound in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)1 / 2
John Harcinske, a volunteer with Mitchell Animal Rescue, pets one of the cats held at the pound in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)2 / 2

Walking into the pound on Monday afternoon in Mitchell, John Harcinske was greeted with great news.

A German Shepherd and lab mix, a dog who was going on her fourth day in the pound, was adopted.

"It's good she was adopted," Harcinske said with a smile on his face.

Yet, five cats still remain in the pound — which is operated by Lakeview Veterinary Clinic — and Harcinske hopes to find these felines a home soon.

But it's not always that easy for the Mitchell Animal Rescue volunteer.

The pound houses animals for five days before euthanizing them, Harcinske said. The animals, which are almost always strays, he said, are given three business days to be claimed by the owner. If they aren't claimed, they are given an additional two business days for someone to adopt the animal. If the five days are complete, and nobody adopts or claims the animal, the Mitchell Animal Rescue swoops in.

Harcinske will be going into his fifth year of volunteering with the rescue facility, which saves cats and dogs from the Mitchell pound on a weekly basis. The rescue, which doesn't have a space of its own, works with the pound to find a home for animals, whether it's foster care, a permanent home or being transferred to another rescue shelter.

"It tears your heart out a lot of times, and you walk out of the pound and the cats are meowing and the dogs are barking, you know you have to leave them there. At the same time, you're doing something good by helping save them," Harcinske said.

So far this month, a total of 13 cats and dogs have been brought to the pound. Of those 13, two have been adopted directly from the pound — not including the Monday adoption — and two have been claimed by the owner. Three of the animals have been sent to foster homes, and six are yet to be determined of their status.

But with half of November left, Harcinske anticipates more animals to come.

For 2017, a total of 269 animals have been brought to the pound. A majority have been claimed by owners, while 59 have been transferred to other shelters. Another 55 have been adopted from the pound, and currently 30 animals sit in foster care. Eleven have been euthanized this year.

Of these 269 animals, Harcinske estimates the Mitchell Animal Rescue has saved 109 cats' and dogs' lives this year, and has contributed to saving another 137 animals' lives by helping advertise through social media.

"It's very rewarding," he said.

Saving lives one paw at a time

Most of the time, animals brought into the pound are not wearing tags.

And when that happens, it's up to the Mitchell Animal Rescue to help. Every day, a volunteer stops by the pound to check for any new animals. If there's a new cat or dog, the volunteer finds out any relevant information including gender, when and where it was picked up, if it's declawed and the animal's personality. Then, the volunteer posts on the rescue's Facebook page — called "The Mitchell Animal Rescue Site" — and sends out an email to the rescue's volunteers with the information.

From there, potential owners and interested adoptees can see pictures of the animal as well as the information.

In the past four years, 1,121 animals have been brought into the pound, growing steadily. In 2014, 245 animals arrived in the pound, increasing to 322 in 2016.

And as the number of animals in the pound increase each year, so does the need for dedicated volunteers, Harcinske said.

An application is available on the rescue's website, allowing interested parties to help transfer, complete daily pound checks or foster animals.

"It helps a person grow and realize there's more to the world than your realm," Harcinske said. "There's a lot of other things out there, and that's true of volunteering in general. It feels good to help and to do something good."

Right now, the biggest need is for foster homes. And if volunteers choose to foster, Harcinske said the rescue pays for food, supplies and any veterinary bills. The second biggest need is for people to lead the organization.

Since its creation in 2008, the same people have led the rescue, Harcinske said, and it's time for fresh faces to help take it over, expand and take the Mitchell Animal Rescue "into the future," he said.

Harcinske began volunteering for the rescue after retirement in 2013. Always having a love for animals, Harcinske said volunteering for an animal shelter was always on his to-do list after retirement.

Since then, he's adopted two cats he's fostered and he hopes more volunteers will step up.

"We hope to stay here for a long time as long as there are lives to be saved in the pound," he said. "And we'd love for people to support us."