Late last fall, Mason County began a program to make sure every dog which enters the Mason County Animal Shelter is vaccinated and treated for worms.

That program is underway and is going well, officials said this week, and every dog, at intake, is now getting vaccinated and being dewormed.

In the future, flea treatment will be added to the list of health checks for each dog entered into the facility, said Rebecca Cartmell, with the Humane Society of Buffalo Trace, who served on an advisory committee which offered suggestions for the shelter.

In November, new policies including the health programs, adding of adoption or "pull" fees and the closure of the shelter's drop-off pen were started on the recommendations of the advisory committee.

New computer software that tracks each animal from intake to outcome is also improving how the shelter operates, said Mason County Judge-Executive Joe Pfeffer.

The net result of the changes? The number of dogs being taken in and the number being euthanized is down, the number of adoptions has remained steady or improved and cats or sick or injured dogs are not being abandoned during the night in the drop-off pen. Owners who want to surrender animals are now required to bring them to the shelter on River Drive during business hours, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., daily, or to call 564-6067 to have the animals picked up.

One fear once it was decided to close the outside pen where animals could be dropped day or night was that animals would simply be left outside the shelter, Pfeffer said. And while that has happened occasionally, it has been much less than expected, he said.

Currently, adopters sign a statement saying they will have animals spayed or neutered, Pfeffer said.  He said the county hopes to be able to get a better handle on the outcome and track animals to ensure they have received the necessary surgery.

Also at the recommendation of the committee, a fee of $20 has been added to adoptions, helping fund the health programs, Pfeffer said. There is also a $25 fee for rescue groups that pull animals from the shelter.

Pfeffer said the county and the advisory committee will continue to explore ways to improve the shelter and how it works.

"It's certainly a work in progress," he said.