COLUMBIA — The Central Missouri Humane Society met Tuesday night at Fairview United Methodist Church in Columbia to host a town hall meeting to discuss its Zootoo makeover plans.
“We’re hoping to gain ideas from what the community thinks is important,” said Heather Duren Stubbs, the society's shelter relations coordinator.
There were about 40 people at the meeting, the majority of whom have made the society a part of their lives, Duren Stubbs said. She added that the town hall meeting was a way of showing those volunteers how valuable their opinions were to the shelter’s future.
The shelter’s main concern is to improve the lives of the animals, Duren Stubbs said. The cats' living conditions are one of its biggest concerns. The cats don’t have enough space and are located next to the dogs, whose constant barking adds stress to the cats’ environment.
By the end of the meeting, attendees had offered about 36 suggestions for improving shelter conditions, including more natural lighting, a surgery recovery room, a storage room for equipment, a clean outdoor area in which the dogs could run and a grooming room to help generate income.
“The main thing I would want is for the deficiencies to be corrected,” said Patrick Kurtz, a volunteer and foster parent with the shelter. The deficiencies he was most concerned about were exposed wiring, flooding and the living conditions for the small animals such as rabbits and rodents.
The Humane Society was entered in the Zootoo.com contest in January after two Columbia Catholic School students, Libby Burks and Amanda Huhman, read about the contest in the back of a magazine.
The shelter was originally ranked 859th out of about 2,000 shelters, according to an article by USA Today, which announced it as the winner in late April.
The shelter is a nonprofit organization and has struggled financially over the years. It was able to make ends meet in 2008 with a budget of $876,500 and is expecting to gain its 2009 income through a variety of resources. Its budget each year is directly affected by the number of animals it must care for.
The town hall meeting ran for nearly two hours and included a PowerPoint presentation explaining the society’s “challenges from A to Zootoo” to discuss “where they have been and where they are going.”
To be clear, the Zootoo $1 million makeover is not a cash prize. Although the society is still uncertain what Zootoo’s role in the makeover will be, it is itsunderstanding that Zootoo will contribute to the society up to $1 million in goods and services, said John Shrum, a board member for the society.
The society plans to meet with Zootoo founder Richard Thompson on Thursday to discuss its makeover plans more thoroughly.
After the town hall meeting, Shrum said he was confident that the community was inspired by Zootoo’s involvement in the shelter and would stand up and become even more involved in the renovations.
“Bottom line, this is an amazing thing for this community,” Shrum said, “and the one message for the public is to call the shelter and find out how they can participate.”