Amid a recovering economy and a Christmas shopping season that has perhaps placed even more pressure on personal finances, adoptions at the Loudon County Animal Shelter have remained steady throughout November and December, which, along with July and August, are typically two of the strongest months of the year. Animal Shelter Director Shasta Raby said the facility would likely finish 2013 with an adoption rate close to 70 percent. "November and December, the litters of puppies and kittens kind of slow down, and you just get a lot more adopted around the holidays it seems like," Raby said, adding that she didn't think the economy played a role in adoption numbers this year. "I don't think so," Raby said. "I think the adoptions stay very strong. It's always a good thing around the holidays, and people are very generous with donations, so I don't really see that money is an issue." The shelter began participating in two programs this year, PetSmart Charities and Pets for Patriots. As part of PetSmart Charities, shelter representatives set up shop on the first and third Sunday of the month at the Turkey Creek PetSmart. The program provides added exposure for local dogs and cats in need of a home. People that adopt an animal through the program receive a gift package of $250 that includes a free grooming and training session and other pet maintenance supplies. Raby said 15 to 20 animals have been adopted through the PetSmart program since its launch in late September. The shelter also became part of the Pets for Patriots program, which seeks to link up "hard to place" animals with retiring or active members of the military. Officials with the animal shelter said a few of their goals for 2013 were to continue to increase the adoption rate, support efforts to spay and neuter animals and raise awareness about the shelter. "We're always hard pressed to let everyone know about the importance of spay and neuter and just try to spread the word about the animal shelter and try to help people be educated about what we really are," April Kennedy, rescue and events coordinator, said. "It's not a little old man walking around with a net scooping up the puppy off the sidewalk. We're much more than that." Officials with the shelter also want to keep more detailed statistics in 2013 about how many pets were adopted at specific events, as well as more defined euthanization figures. "A lot of times the animal shelters are very misunderstood, and a lot of people think that you just hold something for three days and then you euthanize it, and that's not the case," Raby said. "They don't realize how hard the staff works to try to place as many of these nice adoptable animals into homes." Raby said she recognized the stigma surrounding euthanizing animals, but noted the facility's "put down" rate of about 34 percent also included animals that were not adoptable, as well as potentially dangerous creatures like stray raccoons, skunks or feral cats. "I realize a lot of people, they look for Loudon County to become a no-kill county," Raby said. "That's very hard for a municipal shelter to do. We can't refuse anyone that lives in Loudon County. That's what we're there for is for them to be able to bring animals to us, and although it would be nice in theory, we do get a lot of animals in that are just not adoptable, aggressive ones and things." She said the facility receives about 25 calls per month regarding stray animals, some of which are not wearing identification. "I would like to see more people putting IDs on their animals," Raby said. "It's a shame because I know a lot of the pets we get in there have owners that are missing them." Raby noted that the shelter's adopted pets are ID'd with a microchip. "There's so many that come in there that have no ID." While many people are using craigslist to locate lost animals, they should still contact the animal shelter, she said. "We still pick up a lot of stray dogs," Raby said. "Nine times out of 10, that's just because people don't realize it's a state law that they can't run at large. ... I feel like if someone is missing a pet, I think it's very important for them to call and let us know that." The shelter witnessed an increase this summer in residents who surrendered their pet, noting that some could not afford to feed the animals. Raby said the shelter refers people to the Four Paws Food Pantry. "I think that that kind of peaked during the summer and that seemed to really decrease" in late 2012, Raby said. Kennedy said the shelter, which provides tours for church and school groups throughout the year, could use more volunteers to walk dogs and assist with other functions. She was encouraged by the success of the spay and neuter program in the county, noting that for years, residents would bring large numbers of animals to the facility. "It seems to kind of stabilized over the years," Kennedy said. "I've been here for almost 10 years now, and in the beginning you'd see the same people bringing in litter after litter after litter of puppies, but now that we have the spay-neuter program at the Humane Society, we're able to say, 'Hey, you know what? We can get those fixed for you, and it's free. There's no charge.'"