“The changes that have taken place here over the last year have been miraculous,” said Debra Bush, animal control supervisor and director of the shelter, attributing the recent successes specifically to one dedicated volunteer.
“Marci Wicks with Tooele Outreach introduced me to Ann Marie Fuller and my whole world changed,” Bush said.
Fuller, 28, of Grantsville, who was named Volunteer of the Year for 2007 by the Tooele City Police Department, has always had a deep love for animals and wanted to get involved, but wasn’t sure what to do.
“The animals don’t have a voice and so they need people to help them out,” Fuller said.
Upon connecting with the shelter, Bush said, “she rolled up her sleeves and dove right in,” undaunted by the large quantities of animals brought in, low adoptions rates and high euthanization numbers.
“We are a growing but enclosed community,” Bush said. “We weren’t sure how we could get news about our available pets to other areas.”
Fuller set to work listing pets on various Web sites, creating fliers to post at local businesses alerting people of adoption opportunities, and even started scheduling adoption fairs.
“She got to the point that she was holding an adoption fair every month,” Bush said.
Because animals are required to be vaccinated prior to making an appearance in an adoption fair, Fuller took it upon herself to fund the vaccinations for countless animals by getting a second job.
“I can barely get through my day with one job and she is working two jobs and coming into the shelter and taking care of all this,” Bush said.
Because of Fuller’s efforts, pet adoptions in 2007 increased by 125 percent and euthanasia decreased by 21 percent.
“The impact this one individual has had is staggering,” Bush said. “Before Ann Marie came onboard we were euthanizing 40 dogs and 80 cats a month. She dropped that number down to half.”
Earlier this year, the shelter was able to obtain additional storage room because Fuller coaxed the FAA, where she is employed full time, to donate two sheds.
“They were used as backup FAA airplane control rooms,” Bush said. “They have made a world of difference. The shelter now has a cat isolation ward and a medical treatment room.”
Bush said warmer temperatures mean an increase in the number of animals brought into the shelter.
“Our shelter is very small for the traffic that comes through each year,” Bush said. “This is the season for new kittens and we’ll have 100 to 140 cats coming through here. With only 21 cages you can tell how quickly we have to start putting cats down, so with folks like Ann Marie around, you can’t even fathom what that means.”
One of Fuller’s favorite things to do while at the shelter is to feed the animals canned food — a luxury over the dry version.
“You never know if it will be their last meal,” Fuller said.
Fuller doesn’t regret any of the time she dedicates to helping the county’s homeless animal population even if the end result isn’t as happy as she would like.
About seven months ago, Fuller came across a dog who had been hit by a car. The bassett hound was walking on three legs because the fourth was broken. She wasn’t sure how long ago the accident had occurred, but vowed to help the struggling animal. She took it home and arranged with a veterinarian for the animal to have a $900 surgery to repair the damage. The hound ended up dying following the surgery, but even so Fuller was glad she was able to show the animal love for a short period of time.
Fuller is hosting an adoption event on June 28. In the morning, animals will be available for adoption at C-A-L Ranch in Tooele and then she will move locations in the evening to Grantsville City Park and have pets available at the police department’s annual Night Out Against Crime.
Fuller has even begun the process of creating an animal rescue shelter at her home. Purrfect Pawprints, as it was named, has received licensing from the state, but Fuller is still waiting for some additional licensing before the rescue will be officially open.
After a year and a half serving at the shelter, Fuller now spends close to 30 hours a week — mostly on the weekends — helping the animals by getting them vaccinated, spayed or neutered, loving them, and trying to find them new homes.
“They need help,” Fuller said. “That’s why I do it.”