The staff at the Lee County Animal Shelter, located on North Horner Boulevard, networks with more than 500 other animal rescues to place pets in homes.

You might think of the animal shelter — “the pound,” to many – as tantamount to a death sentence for local cats and dogs.

But in Lee County, for the first few months of fiscal year 2017-18, anyway, you’d be wrong.

Between July 1 and November 1, the shelter took in 370 animals, adopted out 277 and euthanized just 11. That’s still 11 sad endings too many, but compared to the same time period from the last fiscal year (419 animals dropped off, 254 adopted, and 82 of them euthanized), it’s a remarkable turnaround.

So what’s going on?

“We network a lot,” said Omayra Zagada, who recently took over as director of the shelter after working there for several years. “When I started, we worked with about five rescues locally. As of this moment, we are working with 500 rescues. When an animal comes in, it goes into the system so that all of the rescues can see it.”

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Zagada’s outreach has also included work with volunteers. A Facebook page, Advocates for the Animals of Lee County NC, is entirely volunteer-staffed. But with more than 5,000 likes, posts about available animals have a long reach.

Another challenge facing the shelter is animals who aren’t so easily adoptable.

“When there are animals who are very scared or aggressive, we work with them instead of putting them down,” Zagada said. “We don’t know if they were mistreated or abused, so we work with them so they can be around people, and be adopted.”

Heath Cain, Lee County’s director of public health, said the adoption rate puts Lee County in the top ten statewide, something the whole county can be proud of.

“To have that ratio is awesome,” he said.