Beginnings: Humane Society lays pathway to better lives for pets

Monday, December 14, 2009 | 4:28 p.m. CST; updated 9:33 a.m. CST, Monday, February 22, 2010
The Central Missouri Humane Society's status as an open shelter allows it to take in animals of all breeds, ages and backgrounds.

COLUMBIA — The noise of dogs barking travels to the street. As you enter the shelter it becomes louder and louder. Once you approach the cages, you understand what is happening. Dogs of all kinds and of all ages are being taken care of at the Central Missouri Humane Society.

“We feel like the number of pets that are dropped off by owners has gone up quite a bit,” says Alan Allert, interim executive director at the Central Missouri Humane Society. It becomes increasingly hard for people to care for their pets if they have lost their jobs and are having trouble making ends meet, he says.

“Our shelter is what’s termed an open shelter," Allert says. "So we take in animals that are brought to us, that people want to relinquish. We take in animals that people find, lost animals, and we adopt out the ones we can.”

For the staff and volunteers, the Humane Society is more than just a shelter. “These are just some of the animals that cannot speak up for themselves and they’re homeless and I try to fix that and find them good homes,” says Katherine Huss, an animal care counselor at the society. 

Aron Crittendon has adopted a puppy from the Humane Society as a present for his girlfriend. Crittendon never expected to find a German Shepherd puppy at the shelter. His family always had a dog around but this will be the first one he will raise himself. “It’s really good luck, I guess,” Crittendon says.

This week concludes Boone Life: Beginnings, our weekly photo column about beginnings of all kinds in Boone County. We hope you enjoyed the stories. Boone Life will resume in January.

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Mike Martin December 14, 2009 | 7:45 p.m.

Humane Society Seeks Fair Share for Creatures, Great and Small
By Mike Martin
for the Columbia Business Times
November 17. 2008

Put your paws together for Patty Forister.

With her board's backing, the Central Missouri Humane Society (CMHS) executive director is forcing city and county governments to confront a public health need that’s been poorly met for too long: animal control.

Unlike many communities that have a taxpayer-funded municipal “dog pound,” Columbia and Boone County have settled on the cheap for a humane society/dog pound “hybrid” that houses a yearly population of some 9,000 mostly dogs and cats.

For about $97,000.00 from the City of Columbia and $10,000.00 from the Boone County Commission, privately funded CMHS provides offices for dogcatchers and a kennel for the roughly 4,500 stray and abandoned animals they corral each year.

With another $800,000.00 in annual contributions from private donors, the society provides temporary housing for another 4,500 or so animals as well as low-cost spay and neuter services; pet ownership education; and community outreach like bringing kittens to visit retirement and nursing home residents.

Proposing a 2009 service contract that nearly triples the amount CMHS annually receives from the Columbia-Boone County Health Department for animal control services, Forister wants to ease the increasingly onerous arrangement.

“Although our leadership has never really looked at it as a business negotiation, it is,” she said. “We handle the city's and county's animal control needs, in exchange for fair compensation that keeps pace with growth.”

Space crunch

Anyone who's ever visited the 30-year-old CMHS facility on Big Bear Blvd. knows conditions are bad at the front door, where a decades-old ventilation system can't remove a terrific stench from 200 or so animals Forister says are nearly “piled on top of each other” on any given day or night.

“Changes in animal care have occurred over the years that we simply haven't been able to implement,” she told me. “A lot of those changes have to do with disease control, where good ventilation and adequate space are essential.”

Given all the recent ballyhoo they ginned up about their own “space crunch” emergencies, public officials ought to sympathize.

Instead, they’re crying poverty over the humane society’s $296,000 request, a frugality compared to nearly $40 million in recent city and county office space expansions – from the courthouse to the Worley Street health department to a super-sized city hall framed by a $115,000 sculpted keyhole.

But Forister is undeterred. “We are facing some very tough questions about our ability to keep going,” she told me. “It's now or never for the communities we serve.”


(Report Comment)
Mike Martin December 14, 2009 | 7:46 p.m.

Humane Society Seeks Fair Share for Creatures, Great and Small
Continued from above

Crisis stage

U.S. efforts to protect and control domesticated animals began in the early 19th century. In 1863, the City of Los Angeles established a public animal pound, following with municipal leash laws and related measures.

Closer to home, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department provides a taxpayer funded animal control facility “to protect public health,” according to their official website.

Handling about 4,500 animals annually, Springfield’s animal control officers also enforce laws governing leashes, pit bulls, rabies vaccinations, animal bites and animal cruelty.

Unaffiliated with the Humane Society for the United States or the ASPCA, the Central Missouri Humane Society was founded in Columbia about 60 years ago. For forty of those years, it has served as both a humane society and dog pound.

Today, as Boone County commissioner Skip Elkin acknowledged on a recent KFRU Morning Meeting, CMHS faces “a crisis stage.”

“It’s up to the city and county to come together on this with adequate funding,” Elkin told listeners. “It's basically an issue of public health.”

Though “one of the options we are studying is to build our own 'pound',” Columbia City Manager Bill Watkins stopped short of making any commitments. “There is a case to be made that a new facility is needed, but I'm skeptical that the city should pay for it,” he told me.

Noting that residents from 21 nearby counties use CMHS but pay nothing toward its upkeep, Watkins added that by inviting more free riders, “a new, bigger facility may just make operational issues worse.”

But if nearly 11,000 hits and 200 individual posts on the Columbia Daily Tribune’s news forum are any guide, a new, bigger facility is a long-overdue public necessity.

“It is beyond question that central Missouri needs access to a quality, spacious, well-staffed animal shelter,” wrote Dave Muscato, a local real estate agent and former humane society volunteer. “If CMHS closes its doors, a lot of people will simply dump their unwanted animals.”

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 14, 2009 | 9:02 p.m.

The Big Bear facility seems to be too small a property.
Wouldn't it be great if MU School of Veterinary Science, Sinclair School of Nursing's Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, PAWS, Second Chance, SNAP, a city pound and the Humane Society worked out an arrangement to all work out of the old Sinclair Farm?
That would provide plenty of space for a centralized animal compound and would meet a variety of needs, interests, studies and services while putting to use a facility which has been dormant for almost a decade.
Of course, the powers that be would need to develop a stronger partnership for the good of our animal population and show how much they really care.
I hope someone looks into this idea and at least floats a feasability study.

(Report Comment)

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