Animal shelter struggles with lack of space, funding

Thais Oliveira
Posted 8/23/23

The Humane Society of Jefferson County struggles to keep providing appropriate care to cats and dogs that come their way daily.

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Animal shelter struggles with lack of space, funding


The Humane Society of Jefferson County struggles to keep providing appropriate care to cats and dogs that come their way daily. This is due to lack of funding from the national humane society and the county, as well as limited space available at their current location on Critter Lane.

Founded in 1953 in a tiny building on Hastings Avenue, the organization was initially a dog pound; out of 600 animals taken in a year, 500 were killed. Bodies were buried on the property until there was no more space. According to records from the Historical Society, carcasses were then burned in barrels until neighbors complained. Bodies were then disposed of at the dump.

Over time, attitudes towards animal rights changed, and 10 years ago, the no-kill nonprofit Humane Society formed with a jump start on funding from a single donor. The current contract gives the use of the building and property for only $10 a year, but also obliges them to pay union labor wages to maintenance workers and county provided materials if any repair is needed. This causes some issues; for example, a simple change of faucet cost them $375.

The contract conundrum also makes it difficult to fund renovation and a new construction that will not ultimately be on the humane society’s property.

Tammy L. Hanks, the first executive director in the shelter’s history, assumed the job one year ago with the mission of trying to bring stability and a better contract to the shelter. With the help of the understaffed board of directors, she oversees staff and 74 volunteers that keep the animals safe, fed, healthy, and loved every day.

“The county is very receptive to our woes, and we are meeting next week to discuss possibilities,” she said. 

The need, she explained, is urgent. The 2,300-square foot facility does not have sufficient space for the 650 animals that come through the doors every year; volunteers improvise to give them proper care.

Dishes are washed over a tub used to bathe the dogs.

The building holds only 10 dog kennels. There are two small rooms for the cats, plus a makeshift space by the entrance for the kittens. When dogs are walked, the only exit goes through the feline area, causing an uproar amongst the animals.

According to Hanks, more and more owners have been surrendering their pets because of the housing situation. As rentals are hard to find and mostly prohibit animals, people turn to the only open-admission shelter in the area as their solution.

“It's heartbreaking,” said the executive director.

Every cat and dog that passes through the Humane Society is housed, walked, fed, microchipped, sprayed, neutered, fully vaccinated, treated for pests, and tested for disease.

The average costs per healthy dog is $135 and $112 for cats for the average 26-day stay. However, animals with medical conditions, anxiety, dental needs, or longer stays can increase those costs exponentially.

On the Humane Society's big recent wins was the purchase of a state-of-the-art trailer where spray and neutering procedures are performed for shelter animals and low-income owners.

The nonprofit was recently chosen to receive an ARGA (American Rescue Grant Act) to help pay for a pickup truck to haul the trailer to perform operations in remote parts of the county.

Some revenue comes from animal licensing, but the bulk of the money is from donors — animal lovers who invest in the operational costs to keep the shelter open. Around 15 donors carry the bulk of it, while the rest contribute with food, beds, cleaning supplies, or whatever else is asked for on their Facebook page.

“That is not sustainable, though. We can’t make long-term plans to improve and reach more people and care for more animals. Folks in this county are very generous if they know what is going on,” Hanks explained. 

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