COLUMBIA — Michael Olson, a volunteer at Columbia Second Chance, was one of the first in line at a recent Central Missouri Humane Society fundraising event at 9th Street Tattoo.
"I got a tattoo of a dog paw print on my left inner wrist," Olson said.
In late September, 9th Street Tattoo donated proceeds of certain animal-related tattoos to the Humane Society.
Olson said he is saddened by the financial situation at the Humane Society.
"It seems they are understaffed, crowded and overwhelmed by the number of animals surrendered," Olson said.
Columbia Second Chance operates independently of the Humane Society but has a good working relationship with the shelter, said Patty Forister, executive director of the Central Missouri Humane Society. When space is available, Columbia Second Chance takes dogs and cats from the Humane Society and arranges adoptions.
The Humane Society has an open-door admission policy and refuses no animal. Columbia Second Chance is a closed-door shelter and can selectively admit animals based on adoptability and kennel space.
"If the Humane Society were to shut down, I fear that Columbia Second Chance would be overwhelmed as we would then be the major animal rescue in mid-Missouri," Olson said. "We do not at this point have the budget, space or volunteer manpower to absorb everything that is accomplished at the Humane Society. Unfortunately, in the end, it would be the animals that would suffer the most."
The city has been exploring alternatives if the Humane Society is forced to close. City Manager Bill Watkins on Friday said there have been discussions about creating a city animal pound.
"We would only service animals that are picked up by Animal Control, which is a small percentage of the animals brought to the Humane Society," Watkins said.
"The city pound would not provide all the services that the Humane Society is currently providing, and we would have to limit where the animals came from. A pound would not be good for either party, but we would consider it if the Humane Society closed."
Since the Humane Society stepped up its fundraising efforts in September, donations above and beyond regular income increased from $5,000 in August to $9,690 in September. Total income for August 2008 was $69,558, and in September the shelter netted $73,030.
"Our monthly income needs to be at least $78,750 to stay afloat, and even that does not allow for any savings," Forister said.
At a fundraiser on Wednesday at the shelter to mark its 65th year in the community, a stream of visitors brought bags of cat litter, paper towels, dog toys and cleaning supplies. After only an hour, a small folding table was overflowing with donated supplies.
"We've had to move a bunch of items in back already," said Tiffany McBee, president of the shelter's board of directors.
The Humane Society has also asked the city to donate charitable gifts of supplies and services. Representatives of the society plans to meet with city officials on Friday to follow up on requests for help with a list of projects that includes fencing, concrete for exercise areas and vehicle maintenance.
In addition to raising funds to stay afloat, the Humane Society is also in need of repairs and improvements. Outside, a few large dog runs and fenced areas are lined with gravel and stone. The areas need to be concrete, board member Cara Christianson said. Concrete is easy to wash and disinfect while the stones and rocks collect waste and can spread disease. The shelter is also lacking an isolation area that helps to prevent the spread of disease among animals.
Inside the building, kennels are filled with dogs, cats, bunnies and small rodents. Dog toys have been chewed to scraps and food dishes are overturned. Many kennels have two or three dogs inside.
At one end of the shelter is an area separated by a metal chain. It is not open to the public, and it is where dogs brought in by Columbia-Boone County Animal Control are initially kept. Upon examination, if animals are deemed to be healthy and adoptable, they are moved to the kennel area that is open for public viewing. On Wednesday night, nearly every kennel was full.
An annual $96,634 contract between the city and the Humane Society includes an annual payment of $56,364 for boarding impounded animals, $19,670 for daytime reception and dispatching, $10,200 for veterinary services, $9,900 for office space and $500 for reimbursement of license fees paid by thesociety.
The city contract is based on the needs and the number of animals brought in by Animal Control only, Forister said. Watkins estimates that 11 animals a day from within the city are brought to the Humane Society from Animal Control.
From Jan. 1 to Sept. 31, the shelter has taken in a total of 5,430 animals — an average of about 22 a day. The largest number of animals are strays or owner-surrendered pets. Animal Control brought in 147 animals from Boone County outside of the city limits during this time, and Animal Control for the city has brought in 254 animals.
At a recent meeting, the board of directors also discussed the next initiative to raise money for the Humane Society. Beginning with a luncheon on Oct. 27, the shelter will form a group called Fund for Animals. This group will operate independently from the shelter and maintain a separate bank account to raise funds from community members who are able to donate larger amounts of money, board member Mary Paulsell said. Charter membership in the fund will begin at $65 in recognition of the shelter's recent 65th birthday celebration.