OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
Homeless animals have a chance at a new start at Homeward Bound, the Osan Air Base animal shelter.
The non-profit organization helps find "furever" homes for animals throughout the peninsula by housing them and managing a Facebook page to advertise their availability.
"Our primary focus is to take care of the animals with respect to the host nation," said Julie McBride, Homeward Bound president and veterinarian.
The shelter was formerly part of the veterinarian clinic, she explained, but had limited space. Once the shelter ran out of room, animals were euthanized. The shelter is now separated from the clinic and operates as a no-kill shelter.
The animals at the shelter are either relinquished pets or strays.
"Animals are given up because of the stresses and costs of shipping them to a new assignment," said Airman 1st Class James Thomas, 51st Maintenance Squadron and Homeward Bound volunteer coordinator. "We encourage families to keep their pets and we offer information to them; however, if owners cannot keep their animals, they pay a relinquishment fee."
The shelter's operating budget comes from donations and relinquishment and adoption fees, explained Thomas.
"Someone interested in adopting an animal can come in with an idea or just to window shop," he said.
Volunteers at the shelter can even help match families with the right animals for their home.
"We will ask them questions about their activity level, if they have other pets and if there are other members of their family to help them decide which pet would be best for them," he said. "The perspective owners will then visit the shelter at least twice and go through a trial adoption period of five to seven days before the adoption is final. We want to find 'furever' homes for these animals."
The shelter also works hard to find homes for the animals online.
Homeward Bound's Facebook page offers an open forum for families to post photos and stories of pets they cannot keep as well as interested owners to post what they are looking for and brows what's available.
"We want the least amount of stress on the animal when it transitions to a new home, so Facebook is a good recourse," McBride said. "If the animal must go up for adoption, it is easier on it to go straight from home to home and to never have to live in the shelter. We are the last resort."
Volunteers monitor the page and use it as a tool to help meet the needs of the animals and potential owners.
Homeward Bound operates with a 100-percent volunteer staff.
"Not one on our team is a paid employee," said Staff Sgt. Roberta Bradley, 51st Operational Support Squadron NCO in charge and Homeward Bound volunteer. "We just come out to help because of our passion for the animals. I have always had animals, so until I am out of the dorms and can have my own, these act as my surrogate pets."
Volunteers visit the shelter for morning, afternoon and evening shifts. For each shift, a key holder to the shelter and the volunteers can let the animals out, clean their kennels and play.
"We don't have set hours we are open here," McBride said. "Other than the shifts the volunteers work, we only open for scheduled appointments."
Currently, Homeward Bound has four dogs and three cats.
People interested in adopting an animal or volunteering can visit the shelter's Facebook page by searching for Homeward Bound Osan. Interested volunteers can attend the shelter's next training session scheduled for noon Sept. 23.