Keeping tails waggin’

Local shelter is saving grace for lost animals

TORRINGTON – For many animals without a home, Waggin’ Tails Shelter offers a second chance at a happy life. Torrington Police Department Animal Control Officer Teri Shinost, along with about 13 volunteers, dedicate countless hours to feeding, cleaning and all around caring, for the dogs and cats residing at 980 East 11th Ave. in Torrington.
A typical day at the shelter for Shinost, or any one of the volunteers, begins with greeting and turning all (12, as of Tuesday) dogs outside – although with recent frigid temperatures, she said the animals do not spend much time outdoors.
Shinost refills water and food dishes and performs any necessary cleaning in the kennels, including washing bowls in the adjacent kitchenette.
“Being in charge of the shelter is part of my role as animal control officer,” she explained. “I like to say we have no capacity here – I won’t turn a dog away.”
When an apparently healthy dog arrives at the shelter, Shinost ensures the animal is nourished and up-to-date on vaccinations. Sick animals are transported to the veterinarian’s office.
Volunteer duties include assisting with laundry, dishes for the shelter’s nine cats, including four in the geriatric section (10 and older).
“New cats are in isolation for 14 days,” Shinost said. “We are currently at capacity for our cat situation … we only (typically) accept cats from within the city, under certain circumstances.”
The shelter is technically a “no-kill” facility, which means 10 percent or less of its animals are euthanized annually.
“Our reasons for euthanasia are feral cats, ill animals, and those that have a temperament that’s not conducive with adoption,” Shinost said.
After six days at the shelter, animals become available for adoption – however, owners searching for a misplaced pet have 11 days to claim the animal.
“After six days, the animals are up for adoption and anyone interested can fill out an application,” Shinost said.
Of course, the ultimate goal for all animals at the shelter is a loving family to call their own, but Shinost said it’s not as simple as walking in, picking out a dog, and leaving that same day.
“If you rent, we will call your landlord,” she said. “If you have other or prior animals and have a vet, we will call them. We want to know that any animals are spayed or neutered and currently up-to-date on vaccinations … we will also call animal control in the town where you reside and make sure interested folks have not been a problem for my counterpart there.
“It’s part of our responsibility to make sure the (animals) go to an appropriate home,” Shinost continued, adding she requires potential new owners bring their other animals, if any, to the shelter for a meet-and-greet with the desired dog.
“Someone might be set on one dog, and we might try to steer them towards another dog we think would be a better fit,” she said.
Adoption fees for male dogs are $100, females are $120, and cats are $50. The fee includes current vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and a microchip for dogs. Cats may be microchipped for an additional $20.
“There aren’t enough good homes,” Shinost said. “We don’t do animals as gifts any time of the year, or same-day adoptions.”
Along with finding appropriate homes for wayward creatures, Shinost must ensure the shelter, which relies heavily on volunteers and donations, is running smoothly.
“Utilities and insurance are covered by the city – everything else here is the result of donations, memorials and a couple of estates,” she said. “We have an amazing group of volunteers that help keep things running, and without the support of the community, we would not be able to do what we do.”
The shelter appreciates donations of Purina-brand dog and cat food, bleach, Dawn dish soap, paper towels and canned pet food of any kind.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” Shinost said.
To volunteer, donate or apply to adopt a pet, stop by Waggin’ Tails seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., call (307) 532-5373, visit, or follow Waggin’ Tails on Facebook.
“Somebody has to speak for the animals,” Shinost said. “Otherwise they don’t have a voice.”

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