Faced with a restricted budget and increasing demands on its services, the Scotland County Humane Society managed to save nearly three times as many animals in 2011-12 as it did three years ago.
The increased effectiveness has resulted in 809 of 1313 dogs brought into the shelter being adopted, fostered or otherwise saved from euthanasia so far this financial year (which ends in June 30). An additional 119 of the dogs brought in so far were reclaimed by their owners. Officials say 331 were euthanized.
That represents a drastic improvement over the fiscal year 2009-10, during which only 234 of 1,240 sheltered animals were placed elsewhere and 900 were euthanized. This year’s improvement represents a continuation of FY 2010-11 progress, where 651 of 1,421 sheltered dogs were adopted or rescued.
Cats were saved at comparable rates, with 75 of 593 being adopted or rescued in 2009-10, 177 of 582 in 2010-11 and 266-of-651 so far this year.
Humane society officials give credit for that improvement to increased volunteer participation, the assistance of area businesses like Pet Smart, Big Lots and the Tractor Supply Store as well as to the utilization of the Internet.
Society board member Kathy Murphy said that the use of Facebook, in particular, had “helped tremendously” in the
rescuing of animals as well as with the return of lost animals.
The organization receives a portion of its funding from both Scotland County and the city of Laurinburg in exchange for handling animals brought there by animal control, and is now waiting to learn whether or not its budget requests for the upcoming financial year will be met.
This year the Scotland County Humane Society is requesting $95,000 from both governments, up from the $90,440 it requested last year. Last year both organizations budgeted only $80,000 for the shelter, not including pass-through money already designated for their use.
The total of the Humane Society’s proposed budget for last year was $285,480. The proposed budget for next year is about $343,000.
If the support falls short of the shelter’s request again this year, the fear of Humane Society board members is that their progress might be halted.
Considering that the declining economy has resulted in animals being brought to the shelter in increasing numbers, the board members believe that a lack of funds this year would be particularly damaging.
“There are many animals that come through our door that require vet care, and our biggest fear is that, when we have limited funds, we may have to install a triage-like set up,” said past Humane Society President and current board member Karla Milholland.
“We may be forced to say ‘Wow, we’re going to have to put this animal down now that we might have otherwise saved easily,’” said Milholland.
The funding request increase is due, largely, to the increase in operating expense.
According to board member Pam Mauk, “The cost of medication is increasing, as well as the cost of spaying and neutering.”
In addition to micro-chipping, every animal that passes through the shelter is spayed or neutered.
While some of those costs are offset by adoption fees ($50 for cats and $90 for dogs), Mauk said that the reality is that more animals may be euthanized without an increase in funding.
Another of the shelter’s largest costs is vaccination. All of the shelter’s animals are vaccinated
“Our biggest fear at this shelter is a distemper or parvovirus outbreak, which would devastate the entire shelter,” said Humane Society Director Sara J. Hatchell.
“Those vaccines are the only thing that stop us from walking in here one morning and seeing several dead litters of puppies, bleeding out from disease or worms.”
Hatchell, who has worked in the past at less progressive shelters where there was no local government support and more animals were euthanized, said that the Scotland County Humane Society provides an “invaluable service” to the community.
“This is our life,” said Hatchell. “We pride ourselves on getting adoptions and rescues — every time one of these animals goes out the front rather than the back, in a plastic bag, we say ‘Hooray’ and are so pleased.”
Hatchell is one of five full-time shelter workers, none of which are employed by the city/county. Those employees along with the shelter’s three part-time workers receive no benefits.
Among the Humane Society’s community services is an educational program for school age children in the area called the “Pet Responsibility Education Program,” also known as “PREP.”
Marcie Nor, one of dozens of volunteers that the society relies on, teaches those classes which are designed to educate children on proper animal care.
According to Murphy, the organization is currently working on getting the PREP program in all of the county’s schools.
Included in the lessons, Murphy said, is the idea that “animals do have feelings, and you need to honor those feelings.”
“The hope is that one day the children will be able to pay that knowledge forward, and that it will eventually make the lives of shelter workers easier,” said Murphy.
The shelter’s obligation to the county recently led to the displacement of more than a dozen shelter animals. When local law enforcement busted a large pit bull fighting ring, 18 of the animals were brought to the shelter by animal control.
Because the shelter could not legally euthanize the difficult-to-adopt, fight trained pit bulls, other animals were displaced and put down.
“We just hope, when considering the budget this year, the county realizes what a value they get from the Humane Society,” said Murphy.
“If (the city and county) had their own shelters, and they had the buildings and staff and just euthanized animals, it would cost them much more than this.
“This is a pretty darn good operation that keeps the heat off of the city and county.”
The Scotland County Humane Society shelter is overseen by a volunteer board of directors.
Those looking to volunteer, donate or adopt are invited to call 276-9271 or visit the Humane Society’s web site at scotlandhumane.org.