PAWS is starting off the new year right, with just 75 cats and 65 dogs awaiting adoption in the public animal welfare services building at 99 North Ave.

"So far, so good," said adoption specialist Vickie Helms.

The shelter has a total of 232 enclosures, along with play areas inside and out where people can get to know a potential pet. Sarah Julson and Jarrod Rogers brought their 2-year-old daughter in Monday and little Scarlett Rogers was soon playing hide-and-seek with a kitten.

"My mother has cats and (Scarlett) is just fascinated by them," Sarah said as the two babies romped by her feet.

Meanwhile, Matt McLoughlin was out in the yard exercising a somewhat chubby blue heeler named Cliff that he picked out while browsing the PAWS web page on Cliff had already been claimed by a rescue group, but he signed up to be called if no one came within 72 hours.

"They said they have a good home for him," McLoughlin shrugged philosophically.

He's looking for a buddy for his Chihuahua/Yorkie mix, Hank, and if he doesn't get Cliff he'll keep an eye peeled online and continue to drop in to check out the pups in person.

"It's nice that you don't have to come down here, but the dogs love the attention, too," he said.

Cats are a little more ... standoffish, sometimes. Shelter assistant Gina Rogers was settling a few new surrenders in the "quiet room," where they could acclimate before being shown for adoption.

Rogers said some are strays taken in for a few days by people who tried — but failed — to find them homes. Others have grown up in safe and loving homes only to find themselves, for one reason or another, left in a strange environment. 

With reassurances and attention from volunteers like Bonnie Lieberman, however, most graduate to the adoption kennels. Lieberman said her main job is to give them treats and love.

"The inmates do all the feeding," she said, referring to the work detail from the Floyd County Prison. "They don't get enough credit for everything they do."

PAWS was expected to close out the year with a live-release rate topping 96 percent. The national standard for a "zero-kill" shelter is 90 percent or higher.

The facility is open for adoptions from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. The regular adoption fees are $40 for dogs and $35 for cats.

Hours for dropping off an animal are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. The center is closed on Sundays.