Humane Society continues to keep doors open

Sunday, October 5, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:29 a.m. CST, Wednesday, December 10, 2008
From left, three 5-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Sherri, Susie and Syra, curl up together for a nap at Central Missouri Humane Society on Sunday afternoon. The recent influx of animals has led to overcrowding, with two or more dogs per kennel.

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.


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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.

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Ray Shapiro October 6, 2008 | 12:43 a.m.

I would support the Humane Society if they had a "no kill" policy. Maybe a city pound is the best way for Columbia to handle strays. Hire a city "dog catcher."
Finding the owner would be the pound's first option. If the animal is too sick or in pain and there's no chance of survival, euthenasia may be appropriate. Healthy animals should be spread out around private adoption agencies and foster homes throughout the state.
We should not be killing healthy dogs and cats just because we haven't found a placement for them.
What's Mizzou's Department of Vetinary Sciences and Div. of Human and Animal Interaction doing to help? Does MU have land, students, volunteers and other resources to help?
I personally support 2nd chance and PAWS. As I learn more about the "Humane" Society, I think they need to stop killing healthy pets if they want the support of those who really care.

(Report Comment)
Sandra Smith October 6, 2008 | 9:35 a.m.

2nd Chance has the option to choose which pets it takes in, the Humane Society doesn't have that option. It has to be a "kill" shelter because it doesn't turn any pets away, as 2nd chance can do. If more people supported the Humane Society with donations of money, items, a larger building, etc, they could accept all animals that come thru their door. Supporting the Humane Socitey could put it in a place where they wouldn't have to kill. I support the animals 100%. More $$ = less killing; it's as simple as that.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 6, 2008 | 1:58 p.m.

"It's not as simple as that." Policy changes and maximizing resources is! The "humane" society is far from being truly humane and is deceptive in calling itself an "open admissions-no animal turned away" agency when it omits the "kill" policy from its P.R.
Policy changes, partnering with other non-profit agencies,vets, colleges schools, community organizations, businessess, land owners, government on all levels, good volunter leadership and truth and disclosure in your agency's activities helps.
Educating and encouraging the public to adopt "relinquished" pets and closing down puppy mills and expensive pet sellers will also help the cause.
This article mentions that a spokesperson is afraid that 2nd chance would be "overwhelmed" if the Humane Society, as it exists now, closed down.
They wouldn't take a 6 year old female feline I've been asked to find a home for. I guess 2nd chance is already "overwhelmed!"

(Report Comment)
Debbie Thompson November 23, 2008 | 9:49 p.m.

I don't think anyone really wants any of the pets killed, including and probably most especially the Humane Society itself. The fact that they already house two or three animals in each kennel should be proof enough that they would rather house the animals than kill them. But for the sake of argument, let's say they decide to institute a no-kill policy. The Humane Society takes in about 22 animals a day. If they instituted a no-kill policy, what would they do with all of those animals? They are understaffed and underfunded to begin with, so expecting them to find homes (even temporary ones) for all of those animals is unrealistic at best, and there just isn't anywhere to put them in their current facility, no matter how much they may want to. If you were running the center, where would you put them all? How would you find homes for 22 animals a day? Would you start loading 15-20 animals in a single kennel? Let's say the kennels were large enough to accommodate those kind of numbers (which they're not), it wouldn't take long before even that wasn't enough. And let's not forget how much it costs to take care of each and every animal that comes through the doors. The Humane Society is already operating at a loss as it is. Who would pay for the increased expenses? Would you? The fact of the matter is that NO ONE wants to kill these animals, but for lack of better funding and a larger (preferably newer) facility, their hands are tied. They have no choice other than to do the best they can with the animals they have, and leave the rest up to the community. The single biggest help the community can provide toward preventing the killing of healthy animals is by spaying and neutering their pets. Period. Let's make that our number one priority, instead of criticizing a Humane Society because the people in the area it services can't seem to remember that animals do tend to reproduce on their own, unless they're spayed or neutered.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 17, 2009 | 10:04 p.m.

From a poster on zoo-too:
"The Humane Society use to be a great place. Today however there are two many people who are getting paid. It is suppose to be volunteer work not a profession. The shelter is too crowded and the animals who get adopted end up at a veterinarain clinic within a few days because they are sick. There use to be a lot of people who donated to the Humane Society in Columbia but now with the economy declining so are the donations. The Central Missouri Humane Society needs a face lift on the outside and inside...I mean those who work there. Remember volunteering makes you feel good and when others see you volunteer they realize what a difference you are making and they too will volunteer. So stop with the paychecks and help out.
ps>>>> become a no kill shelter!
.... In this situation the CMHS started with a director, manager, assistant manager, and a couple full time paid staff members. Now there is a director, assistant director, manager, assistant manager, staff director, senior staff, junior staff, full time staff, part time staff, publicits, fundraiser coordinator, assistant fundraiser coordinator, secretary, treasurer, etc...there are too many jobs that are not needed."
(Now I know where a good portion of their $900,000 budget goes.
I would think that over the years, some money could have been set aside for a "future facilities" fund. Too many salaried folk, IMHO.)

(Report Comment)

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