COLUMBIA — A drain that runs under the concrete in the outdoor kennel area at the Central Missouri Humane Society has collapsed. The drain was installed when the original facility was built in 1978 and, like other areas of the Humane Society, it is in need of repair.

Urgent repairs were the opening topic of discussion at a Humane Society board meeting Monday night.

"I don’t even know how or when we're going to repair the drain," said Patty Forister, executive director of the Humane Society.

More pressing than most of the facility repairs, however, is the financial situation at the Humane Society. Revenue has decreased while expenses have increased. The number of animals brought to the shelter in 2008 has also increased, adding to total expenses, Forister said.

Since an announcement in September about its financial situation, the Humane Society has had to curtail hours and staffing to make ends meet, but it has also received help from community members.

Businesses have been helping with the repairs. For example, Columbia's Midway Electric installed an exhaust fan for free, Forister said.

Amir Ziv, a Columbia resident present at Monday's meeting, created a 6-minute video on the financial situation at the shelter. The video, which is posted on YouTube, is an appeal for help at the Humane Society and portrays animal overcrowding and the need for a new facility. It also discusses the services the Humane Society provides to the community and to the city's Animal Control Department via a contractual agreement. 

"If the Humane Society closes, the problem would be of epic proportion," Ziv said. "It's time to cry out and get involved. The Humane Society is a part of the infrastructure of our community."

The Humane Society also received a financial boost in November from an anonymous $10,000 donation, Forister said.

“Our total donations are good, but we cannot get too excited because we need to keep this up all year,” board treasurer Sherry Waddill said.

Although the anonymous donation will help, the Humane Society still struggles to remain operational.

“Total support and revenue for the year is short about 5 percent, though that is a lot better than I expected, and I am encouraged,” Waddill said. The figures reflect revenue from Jan. 1 through Oct. 31.

“Overall, we are still short in total support and revenue by over $50,000,” Waddill said. Total support and revenue reflects all income, including contractual payments, adoption intake fees, fundraising and donations.

MU business graduate students and volunteer consultants from SCORE, a local nonprofit consulting association for small businesses, are helping the Humane Society by looking at the shelter operations, image, staff effectiveness and finances. The volunteer consultants were at Monday's meeting to discuss progress.

John Dean, the project's lead consultant, said the Humane Society takes in about 9,000 animals per year in a facility and with a staff structured for half that capacity, and it has seen a declining financial situation for several consecutive years.

The MU students are researching perceptions of the Humane Society by municipal government agencies, animal rights advocates and agencies and the public. Their findings are expected to be presented to the Humane Society this month.

At a meeting with the city on Nov. 3, the Humane Society board of directors presented a revised 2009 contract to the city asking for triple the current contract value. The city responded by sending out requests to individuals and businesses to bid on services provided by the Humane Society.

The city's Animal Control budget for 2009 is $463,779; the proposed contract presented by the Humane Society was for $295,821.

In an e-mail Monday, Stephanie Browning, director of the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, confirmed that the deadline to submit proposals to the city was extended to Friday to allow the Humane Society to bid on continued services.

The contract request is based on findings by the Humane Society that more than 50 percent of the animals taken in at the shelter are from Boone County. The Humane Society found that more than half of the animals brought to the shelter each year are from Boone County, and most of these were from Columbia, Forister said. The Humane Society has asked the city for more money to cover expenses that would normally be incurred by operating a municipal shelter.

"It's important that the city understands and recognizes the role we play in the community," Humane Society board member Maria Furey said.

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