Kill….or No-Kill?

We are often asked this question:  “Is the Harrison County Humane Society of Iowa a Kill or No-Kill shelter?”

This question is asked by well-meaning people.  It’s actually a hot topic in the shelter arena, and it gets a lot of attention in the news and on Social Media.

In order to answer that question, HCHS officers and volunteers have had to really look into the definition of each of those terms and the policies that go into the designation in order to be comfortable with HCHS policy.

KILL SHELTERS:

Kill shelters are often maligned in the media.  Photos of piles of dogs fresh from the kill-room; heart-tugging posts of a dog’s last walk from the kennel; the insanity of over-crowded shelters.  Most of us reading this article would be quick to judge that kill shelters are inhumane, and we would never surrender a beloved pet to the potential of being euthanized for space.  

Shelters run on donations and grants.  A number of years ago, while researching grants, one common question kept popping up — “Are you an Open Admission shelter?”  A ‘yes’ answer meant that I could proceed with the application.  A ‘no’ answer meant that HCHS would not be eligible for consideration for that grant.  

That prompted me to find out the definition of Open Admission.  An Open Admission shelter runs on the policy that they take in any animal that enters through the door, whether stray or surrender, regardless of kennel space available.  That means that if, on any given day, all the kennels are full in that shelter, for each animal that is brought in for admission, one animal must be either adopted out or otherwise eliminated.  Open Admission shelters, by definition, are shelters that euthanize for space.  Many times their hands are tied, however, because in order to operate, they must receive donations and grants.  It’s a Catch-22 — if the shelter was not there, no animals would be helped; no animals would find loving homes; no animals would be taken off the streets to know what it means to form relationships with human beings.

NO-KILL SHELTERS:

No-Kill shelters are viewed as the epitome of shelters.  These shelters have policies in place that forbid the killing of an animal for any reason.  An animal that dies at a No-Kill shelter will die only from disease, old age, or other medical or natural causes.  The volunteers and employees at No-Kill shelters will not euthanize an animal for any reason.  Sometimes these shelters become overcrowded, but often times, they have waiting lists for animals to come in.  When an animal is adopted out, or when an animal dies, then the shelter will admit the next animal on the waiting list.

No-Kill shelters must have a very strong and reliable donor base in order to thrive.  When an animal comes in who is very sick or injured, policy states that the shelter is obligated to go to any length necessary to rehabilitate that animal.  One rescue that I follow on Facebook recently took in eleven puppies that came in with the parvovirus.  Of those eleven, seven survived.  The cost to the rescue?  Over $12,000.  That’s a price-tag of over $1700 per puppy!  For an elderly dog, teeth issues, health issues, mobility issues, and more can top $3000 in order to make him adoptable.  An injured animal’s medical bills can rise to over $5000 and months of rehabilitation in order to hopefully allow for survival.

THE SOLUTION:  NO-SUFFERING

When the officers, volunteers, and members of the Harrison County Humane Society of Iowa considered these two options, neither seemed to be a good fit.  After much discussion and contemplation, a policy of ‘No-Suffering’ was arrived at.  

So….what does that mean?

That means that HCHS is NOT an Open Admission shelter.  While we are obligated, under the 28E agreements with 8 of 9 Harrison County towns and Rural Harrison County, to provide space for strays brought in by officers, for the rest, we screen and make waiting lists based on priority.  

HCHS officers work tirelessly to help stray and lost animals find their way home BEFORE they are brought to the shelter.  Our amazing base of citizens will often hold stray/lost dogs and cats at their homes for a period of time while we post photos, descriptions, locations, and contact information on Social Media.  (Note:  If the animal is injured or very sick, there is no wait; the animal is brought in for veterinary evaluation).  The shelter phone* is answered 365 days a year, most all day long, to help match owners with their lost pets.  

After a period of time (usually 24-48 hours), the unclaimed animal is brought to the shelter.  Strays always take priority over surrenders.  The animal is vaccinated, scanned for a microchip, de-wormed, fed, and made comfortable in his or her own kennel.  Volunteers walk dogs three times a day and exercise the cats twice a day.  After seven days, in accordance with the law, the animal is then the property of HCHS and steps are taken to make the animal adoptable (spay/neuter, health testing, rabies shot, non-life-threatening medical care).

Dog and cat surrenders happen on a priority basis.  Pet owners are interviewed to determine the adoptability of the surrendered pet.  If a dog is aggressive (or has a bite history), we will not take a chance on that dog.  We have to consider the health and safety of our shelter volunteers as well as the reputation of the shelter.  It is up to the owner to find a different placement or to make the tough decision.  

The circumstances of the animal surrender are also factors in the decision-making process on accepting a surrender.  The pet of an elderly person who is entering a nursing home takes precedence over the pet of someone who declares they no longer have time for that animal.  Some of our considerations include:

  • The safety of the animal;
  • Living conditions;
  • Urgency;
  • Hoarding situations;
  • Law enforcement recommendation;
  • Health of the current owner;
  • Health of the animal;
  • Other options available to the owner.

If HCHS has kennel space available, an adoptable dog or cat may be surrendered.  Owners are required to pay a fee to off-set the cost of vaccinations and alteration.  

When puppies and kittens are surrendered, in addition to the surrender fee, owners will be counseled on responsible pet ownership, including spaying and neutering the parents of those surrendered puppies and kittens.  Through donations, HCHS has a voucher program with area veterinarians to help with the cost of alteration for up to two pets per family.  After paying for the surgery, pet owners may submit the receipt for the spay/neuter for up to $50 reimbursement per pet.

HCHS policy on No-Suffering includes the following practices:

  • Injured and sick dogs and cats are evaluated by our veterinarians for quality of life.  The consulting veterinarian and an HCHS officer make the determination on whether or not the animal’s suffering can be alleviated through medical and surgical means.  When the potential for relief, rehabilitation, and adoption is there, but the cost is high, HCHS reaches out to our followers to donate funds directly to that animal’s care.  If the potential for relief of suffering is not there, or the cost is grossly prohibitive, the compassionate answer is euthanasia.
  • If an animal, stray or surrender, is suspected, through volunteer interaction, to be aggressive and unadoptable, a few steps occur.  The animal is evaluated by a behavior specialist, a veterinarian, and/or an HCHS officer.  In the past, we have used our good relationship with the behaviorists at the Nebraska Humane Society to assist in evaluation.  All options are considered, including training, transfer to a program that focuses on behavior rehabilitation, or humane euthanasia.
  • No adoptable animal is ever euthanized for space, time, or merely age.

CONCLUSION:

If you have ever been frustrated with HCHS’s ability to accept a surrender, take in a stray, or adopt a long-term shelter resident, we understand.  As there are many different kinds of shelters, it is only reasonable that our followers may not understand our policies and the factors behind our decisions.  The health and welfare of dogs and cats are always a priority to us.  While we would like to help everyone, sometimes people need to help themselves and look at other options available to them.  

As a volunteer, member, donor, or citizen, please be assured that we take the responsibility of appropriately utilizing our donated shelter seriously.  We also take the responsibility of properly utilizing the monetary and other donations and grants we graciously receive seriously.   Every cent, every item, goes to the health and welfare of the animals we serve.  You have entrusted us as custodians of the less fortunate, forgotten, and unwanted dogs and cats of Harrison County.  We believe that by conducting our organization as a No-Suffering entity, we are doing the best we can for those we serve.

* (NOTE:  the shelter phone is staffed by unpaid volunteers who hold jobs; callers should always leave a detailed voicemail and await a return call if the call is not answered immediately)

12/26/2016:  Care for Outdoor Pets

Winter is just a few days old, so it’s time to talk about caring for outdoor pets.  

At HCHS, we would always prefer that all pets be allowed in the house, snuggled up on a couch, but as we are in a rural farming community, we know that that is not always feasible.

Outdoor pets tend to prepare for the cold by putting on weight in the fall.  Many dogs and cats also begin to grow a denser fur coat as it gets colder.  Both of these are contingent on these animals being consistently outdoors.  A pet that is typically kept inside will not put on weight or grow the denser fur coat.  That being said, it is absolutely cruel to take a pet that is used to being kept inside and sending them outside for hours or days.

One must also consider the size and metabolism of the pet.  While outdoor cats tend to be very resilient in the cold temperatures, there are many small breed dogs (and even some larger breeds) that will die if left exposed to the elements for even brief periods of time.  Huskies have the genetics to withstand the cold and snow, while Great Danes suffer.  Consider the coat of your dog before expecting it to be comfortable in cold temperatures — dogs who grow dense undercoats, like Collies, will be better off than a dachshund that doesn’t.  Most cats have the ability to grow a dense undercoat.

If you must have pets live outdoors, please keep the following recommendations in mind:

    1. Provide adequate water.  Understand that when the temperature goes below freezing, your pet’s water will also freeze.  Invest in a heated water dish so that your pet always has fresh water to drink to stay hydrated.  No….your pet can NOT just eat snow to stay hydrated!
    2. Provide good quality food.  The food you offer the rest of the year may not have enough nutrients and fats to keep your pet healthy, warm, and comfortable during the winter months.  We recommend talking to Terri Compton at Animal House Veterinary Hospital in Logan, IA.  712-644-1333.  Terri owns TLC Pet Foods.  She ONLY stocks top quality dog and cat foods.  She will be able to help you to choose the right brand and formula to keep your pet healthy and comfortable all winter long.
    3. Provide sturdy, warm shelter.  This is the law, folks.  You must provide a shelter that has four walls and a roof.  It must be insulated appropriately — brome hay or straw is best.  The floor must be raised above the ground so that rain, snow, and water will not pool inside.  There must be a door to prevent the elements from reaching a resting dog or cat.  The door should be large enough for the animal to get inside.  For cats, the door should be small enough so that other critters can not get in to harm your pet.  The shelter should be large enough for the animal to stand and turn around.  Bedding should be appropriate and dry.  Place the shelter out of the wind and precipitation.
    4. Bring your pet inside when the weather gets rough.  Our recommendation is that if the temperature goes below ‘0’ degrees, bring your pet inside.  If it is sleeting or there is wet snow, bring your pet inside.  

Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, shares these tips for all pets who go outside, including those who go out for walks:

    1. Invest in pet-friendly ice melt.  Salt gets onto your pet’s paws and hurts them.  If salt and other snow-melts can divot concrete, just think about what it can do to your pet’s paws.  Be sure to clean the paws once you get back from your walk.
    2. If it’s too cold for you to be outside, think twice about taking your pet out for any length of time (besides the potty break).  While dogs and cats can withstand cold a little better than we can, the cold still affects them (especially those who are used to a warm house and those, like chihuahuas, who are tiny and have short fur).
    3. Continue to monitor your pet’s health.  Despite the absence of fleas, ticks, and other warm-weather parasites, you need to keep up on your heartworm preventative, monitor for ear infections (despite the cool temperatures, my Sexton’s ear infection has creeped back in just in the past few days), and watch for dry eyes.
    4. Do not punish your pet for pottying inside.  Yes, it’s inconvenient.  But for some pets, just the thought of going outside in below-freezing temperatures is excruciating.  There may be indoor accidents.  There are wonderful products out there that might help through the winter — pee pads, indoor grass potty areas, and (yes, I dare say it) mops!  Have empathy — put yourself in your pet’s place.  Do you want to potty in freezing temperatures, snow, sleet, and wind?  Most will comply….but if they don’t, have a heart!

We know you love your pets — both those who live inside and those who live outside!  Thank you for caring for them the best you know how.  Hopefully this will help you to make their lives just a little more comfortable.  A spoiled pet is a happy pet!  (Personally…I believe that all pets deserve to be spoiled!)

12/7/2016 2017 HCHS Membership Drive Would you like to make a difference in the lives of homeless, stray, and unwanted animals in Harrison County?  One way to do so is to become a member of the Harrison County Humane Society of Iowa.  It takes so little to become a member — $15 for an individual; $25 for a family — but the opportunities are out of this world! Every odd year is very important for HCHS and the membership, as the leadership team is nominated and voted upon in November.  In order to help make the decision on the Executive Board, one must have fully paid the membership fee by March 31, 2017, and be in good standing with the Humane Society. There are other benefits to being a member — the first is that members are invited to attend quarterly meetings of HCHS to help make the decisions that guide our work.  These meetings are held the second Thursday of February, May, August, and November at 7:00 p.m. at the Logan Community Center.  Each meeting, vital votes are taken to make the big decisions affecting the animals at the shelter and in the community.  According to our Constitution and By-Laws, we need a minimum of 11 voting members present to conduct business at a meeting.  The more voting members present, the better our decisions are. Being a member means that you receive our regular newsletter, The Paw Prints.  This newsletter shares success stories of adopted animals, up-to-date news of events and happenings of the shelter, volunteers, and community.  Included in the newsletter are many photos highlighting the work done to benefit our animals. Being a member means that you may be asked to be a shelter volunteer, an event volunteer, or an advocate for animals in our community.  As a member, you are able to bring community concerns to the attention of the Executive Board and the membership as a whole.  You are able to help brainstorm and enact the ideas that will serve to make life much better for animals in need.  We look for ACTIVE members — those who want to be involved, those who want to volunteer, those whose voice speaks loudly and clearly for animal welfare. Being a member means that you are on the front lines of the Spay and Neuter message that HCHS holds dear.  Each and every animal that is adopted from HCHS has been spayed or neutered.  We advocate for spaying and neutering of pets and of the feral cat population in our communities.  Alteration has a positive impact on the health of dogs and cats — helping them to avoid cancers, tumors, and other complications.  Alteration also has a positive effect on the available pet population — the numbers of puppies and kittens born to just one pair of unaltered animals is staggering!  Please see the accompanying photos for illustration. Being a member means that you support our fundraising efforts — through the personal donation process or through our fundraising events.  We have members who pose as Santa and Mrs. Claus at our annual Santa Paws photo event; we have members who bake for events; we have members who sell t-shirts or other items at events; we have members who donate goods for our Poker Run auction; we have members who recruit golf teams for our Litter in the Ruff Golf Tournament; we have members who donate raffle items for our Spay-Ghetti Feed; we have members who walk dogs in the 4th of July parade; we have members who volunteer to help with our TNR efforts; we have members who write grants; we have members who transport animals to the veterinarian….. The possibilities are endless! Take a moment, gather your thoughts, and ask yourself if 2017 is the year that you are ready to spread the message of responsible pet ownership, advocate for the animals of Harrison County, and promote the welfare of all animals.  If you think this is for you, and you’re ready to join us, we would love to welcome you aboard!   Please join us at our January 2017 Membership Drive Open Houses on January 8 and January 22 from 3 – 5 p.m.  We would love to meet you and talk with you about how you can get involved.
11/23/2016 HOLIDAYS WITH YOUR PETS The Holidays can be a fun time for your furry friends.  There is a lot of excitement and your pets can seem to be very happy with all of the action…. But there are a lot of stressors they are dealing with that we may not always be aware of. Dogs and cats can get stressed by unfamiliar activities, unfamiliar people, unfamiliar places, unfamiliar routines, unfamiliar schedules, and the unfamiliar energy in the air. Some pets show their anxiety through hiding — one friend of mine has a dog, Gracie, who parks herself in the corner behind the couch for the extent of time that guests are around.  She doesn’t growl, she doesn’t get aggressive, and she doesn’t leave the room — but her anxiety is evident. Other animals show their anxiety through hyperactive play, panting, acting out, excessive vocalization, clinginess, or removing himself from the area.  My dog Sexton will rip packaging to shreds and play for hours without taking a nap. Many cats like to be present with their people, but they are also wary of all of the activity.  Planning high perches for them will go a long way to alleviating their anxiety.  If that perch is in the sun….all the better! Speaking of cats — a lot of cats are VERY interested in Christmas trees!  All those baubles, bells, and trinkets are fun and exciting!  Make sure that your tree is secure and that you include pet-friendly ornaments where your cats can get to them.  Save your precious, fragile ornaments for the upper branches — or better yet, for a mantle, table tree, or other safe place. If you are planning a party, please also make a plan for your pets.  You know them best — would it be best to board them for the evening?  Is it sufficient to quarter them in an upstairs room while the party is going on downstairs?  If there are small children and you wish for your animals to be present, have you made clear expectations on how your animals are to be treated?  Remember — our pets are our family AND our responsibility.  It is up to YOU to make sure that your pets are kept safe. The Holidays also means that there is an abundance of food available.  Please check out the pictures attached to this blog.  If you have foods available that are dangerous for your animals, you need to make a plan so that your party or holiday does not end in an Emergency Veterinary Clinic.   Do you plan to purchase Holiday gifts for your pets?  Please consider the appropriateness of the gifts.  Although my Great Dane mix, Sunshine, is a large dog, the XXXL Rawhide bone she got for her first Christmas still sits in my living room, untouched.  Consider carefully the origin of treats and chews — if in doubt, Made in the USA is always your best choice!  If you have both cats and dogs, buy all the fuzzy mice and feathery balls for your cats you want — but make sure that they don’t make their way into your dogs’ tummies and get lodged there, requiring surgery. Make the Holidays fun AND safe for your pet family!  
11/13/2016 Santa Paws 2016 Santa Paws 2016 was held at the Logan Community Center from 3 – 6 p.m. on Nov. 13, 2016. 41 photo orders were placed, which is up from 32 in 2015.  Kelli Marie Photography from Woodbine photographed the event this year.  Wow!  What a smooth event this year!  More than half of the pets and owners showed up right at 3:00 p.m. and the volunteers handled it wonderfully!  While it was crazy busy for a while, it sure felt like everyone was having a good time and getting fabulous holiday photos in the process! This is one of my (Nancy’s) favorite events for a number of reasons.  First — Kelli Gray donated her time and editing for the event, which means that every cent goes directly to the shelter animals.  Second — everyone seems to be in such a great mood!  Third — a lot of former adoptees show up at this event.  It is always so great to see how they have grown to love their families and have matured.  (It’s also pretty awesome when they remember you and get wiggly butts!)  Fourth — I get to have my dogs photographed!  Fifth — just wiggly butts, in general.  Sixth — Chris Dickinson always brings a unique pet to be photographed; this year he brought two snakes!  Seventh — it’s always the first time of the season that I hear Christmas music.  Eighth — Santa Paws shows up (thanks, Jon Riley, for always stepping up and dusting off that Santa suit).  Ninth — Jennette Riley’s smile.  Tenth — the smell of sliced hot dogs. Bonus:  Six dogs were microchipped, ensuring that they will be able to return home if they go missing and are seen at a veterinary office or a shelter. Thank you to everyone who makes this event a reality!

Kill….or No-Kill?

We are often asked this question:  “Is the Harrison County Humane Society of Iowa a Kill or No-Kill shelter?”

This question is asked by well-meaning people.  It’s actually a hot topic in the shelter arena, and it gets a lot of attention in the news and on Social Media.

In order to answer that question, HCHS officers and volunteers have had to really look into the definition of each of those terms and the policies that go into the designation in order to be comfortable with HCHS policy.

KILL SHELTERS:

Kill shelters are often maligned in the media.  Photos of piles of dogs fresh from the kill-room; heart-tugging posts of a dog’s last walk from the kennel; the insanity of over-crowded shelters.  Most of us reading this article would be quick to judge that kill shelters are inhumane, and we would never surrender a beloved pet to the potential of being euthanized for space.  

Shelters run on donations and grants.  A number of years ago, while researching grants, one common question kept popping up — “Are you an Open Admission shelter?”  A ‘yes’ answer meant that I could proceed with the application.  A ‘no’ answer meant that HCHS would not be eligible for consideration for that grant.  

That prompted me to find out the definition of Open Admission.  An Open Admission shelter runs on the policy that they take in any animal that enters through the door, whether stray or surrender, regardless of kennel space available.  That means that if, on any given day, all the kennels are full in that shelter, for each animal that is brought in for admission, one animal must be either adopted out or otherwise eliminated.  Open Admission shelters, by definition, are shelters that euthanize for space.  Many times their hands are tied, however, because in order to operate, they must receive donations and grants.  It’s a Catch-22 — if the shelter was not there, no animals would be helped; no animals would find loving homes; no animals would be taken off the streets to know what it means to form relationships with human beings.

NO-KILL SHELTERS:

No-Kill shelters are viewed as the epitome of shelters.  These shelters have policies in place that forbid the killing of an animal for any reason.  An animal that dies at a No-Kill shelter will die only from disease, old age, or other medical or natural causes.  The volunteers and employees at No-Kill shelters will not euthanize an animal for any reason.  Sometimes these shelters become overcrowded, but often times, they have waiting lists for animals to come in.  When an animal is adopted out, or when an animal dies, then the shelter will admit the next animal on the waiting list.

No-Kill shelters must have a very strong and reliable donor base in order to thrive.  When an animal comes in who is very sick or injured, policy states that the shelter is obligated to go to any length necessary to rehabilitate that animal.  One rescue that I follow on Facebook recently took in eleven puppies that came in with the parvovirus.  Of those eleven, seven survived.  The cost to the rescue?  Over $12,000.  That’s a price-tag of over $1700 per puppy!  For an elderly dog, teeth issues, health issues, mobility issues, and more can top $3000 in order to make him adoptable.  An injured animal’s medical bills can rise to over $5000 and months of rehabilitation in order to hopefully allow for survival.

THE SOLUTION:  NO-SUFFERING

When the officers, volunteers, and members of the Harrison County Humane Society of Iowa considered these two options, neither seemed to be a good fit.  After much discussion and contemplation, a policy of ‘No-Suffering’ was arrived at.  

So….what does that mean?

That means that HCHS is NOT an Open Admission shelter.  While we are obligated, under the 28E agreements with 8 of 9 Harrison County towns and Rural Harrison County, to provide space for strays brought in by officers, for the rest, we screen and make waiting lists based on priority.  

HCHS officers work tirelessly to help stray and lost animals find their way home BEFORE they are brought to the shelter.  Our amazing base of citizens will often hold stray/lost dogs and cats at their homes for a period of time while we post photos, descriptions, locations, and contact information on Social Media.  (Note:  If the animal is injured or very sick, there is no wait; the animal is brought in for veterinary evaluation).  The shelter phone* is answered 365 days a year, most all day long, to help match owners with their lost pets.  

After a period of time (usually 24-48 hours), the unclaimed animal is brought to the shelter.  Strays always take priority over surrenders.  The animal is vaccinated, scanned for a microchip, de-wormed, fed, and made comfortable in his or her own kennel.  Volunteers walk dogs three times a day and exercise the cats twice a day.  After seven days, in accordance with the law, the animal is then the property of HCHS and steps are taken to make the animal adoptable (spay/neuter, health testing, rabies shot, non-life-threatening medical care).

Dog and cat surrenders happen on a priority basis.  Pet owners are interviewed to determine the adoptability of the surrendered pet.  If a dog is aggressive (or has a bite history), we will not take a chance on that dog.  We have to consider the health and safety of our shelter volunteers as well as the reputation of the shelter.  It is up to the owner to find a different placement or to make the tough decision.  

The circumstances of the animal surrender are also factors in the decision-making process on accepting a surrender.  The pet of an elderly person who is entering a nursing home takes precedence over the pet of someone who declares they no longer have time for that animal.  Some of our considerations include:

  • The safety of the animal;
  • Living conditions;
  • Urgency;
  • Hoarding situations;
  • Law enforcement recommendation;
  • Health of the current owner;
  • Health of the animal;
  • Other options available to the owner.

If HCHS has kennel space available, an adoptable dog or cat may be surrendered.  Owners are required to pay a fee to off-set the cost of vaccinations and alteration.  

When puppies and kittens are surrendered, in addition to the surrender fee, owners will be counseled on responsible pet ownership, including spaying and neutering the parents of those surrendered puppies and kittens.  Through donations, HCHS has a voucher program with area veterinarians to help with the cost of alteration for up to two pets per family.  After paying for the surgery, pet owners may submit the receipt for the spay/neuter for up to $50 reimbursement per pet.

HCHS policy on No-Suffering includes the following practices:

  • Injured and sick dogs and cats are evaluated by our veterinarians for quality of life.  The consulting veterinarian and an HCHS officer make the determination on whether or not the animal’s suffering can be alleviated through medical and surgical means.  When the potential for relief, rehabilitation, and adoption is there, but the cost is high, HCHS reaches out to our followers to donate funds directly to that animal’s care.  If the potential for relief of suffering is not there, or the cost is grossly prohibitive, the compassionate answer is euthanasia.
  • If an animal, stray or surrender, is suspected, through volunteer interaction, to be aggressive and unadoptable, a few steps occur.  The animal is evaluated by a behavior specialist, a veterinarian, and/or an HCHS officer.  In the past, we have used our good relationship with the behaviorists at the Nebraska Humane Society to assist in evaluation.  All options are considered, including training, transfer to a program that focuses on behavior rehabilitation, or humane euthanasia.
  • No adoptable animal is ever euthanized for space, time, or merely age.

CONCLUSION:

If you have ever been frustrated with HCHS’s ability to accept a surrender, take in a stray, or adopt a long-term shelter resident, we understand.  As there are many different kinds of shelters, it is only reasonable that our followers may not understand our policies and the factors behind our decisions.  The health and welfare of dogs and cats are always a priority to us.  While we would like to help everyone, sometimes people need to help themselves and look at other options available to them.  

As a volunteer, member, donor, or citizen, please be assured that we take the responsibility of appropriately utilizing our donated shelter seriously.  We also take the responsibility of properly utilizing the monetary and other donations and grants we graciously receive seriously.   Every cent, every item, goes to the health and welfare of the animals we serve.  You have entrusted us as custodians of the less fortunate, forgotten, and unwanted dogs and cats of Harrison County.  We believe that by conducting our organization as a No-Suffering entity, we are doing the best we can for those we serve.

* (NOTE:  the shelter phone is staffed by unpaid volunteers who hold jobs; callers should always leave a detailed voicemail and await a return call if the call is not answered immediately)

June 19, 2017

Let’s talk about what it means to be a TEAM in a volunteer-driven non-profit organization.

One of the most amazing things someone with an altruistic heart can do is to become a part of a volunteer team for a non-profit organization.  I’m not going to lie — it’s not for the faint-hearted.  It’s not for the person who wants the glory.  It’s not for the person who needs a return on his/her investment.

Volunteering is for the person who wants to make a difference, no matter how small, in the lives of those who can not speak for or advocate for themselves.

We choose to make that difference in the lives of animals.

The animals who come through our doors do not ask to be brought to a shelter.  For quite a few, just last night they had a bed to sleep in and a buddy to snuggle up against.  Through no fault of their own, they were brought to a shelter, handed over to a shelter volunteer, and processed into a period of time (for some, a day or two; for others, months) shut in a kennel.  There are noises and smells and strange people who come into their area — which is never really their area.

For some animals, the shelter is a relief.  The shelter is a place where they can finally sleep soundly, knowing that they are free from attack.  Knowing that they will be fed adequately and get attention that they so richly deserve.

As a volunteer…each animal’s story is different, but they each bring tears to my eyes.  I cry for the dog who watches his family drive off without him, never understanding what he did wrong to be left with strangers.  I cry for the dirty, matted cat who huddled under bushes and sought refuge in trees, feeding herself from garbage cans all because she got out of the house and never found her way back home. I cry, too, for the animals who come in, obviously neglected or maltreated, who finally have a chance at getting the loving home they deserve.  I cry for the animals who are so frustrated and scared that they lash out.  I cry for the beautiful, old girl whose family opened the door one day and shooed her out of the house, blind, partially deaf, riddled in tumors.  She found refuge with a kind, elderly lady. She found peace with us.  She still haunts me to this day — the vision of why we do what we do.  Why we are not ‘no-kill’ and not ‘kill’ in terms of a shelter.  We are a ‘no-suffering’ shelter.  In my opinion, the most humane and compassionate of all shelter definitions.

Being a volunteer can be hard work, when you put your heart and soul into the mission.  Honestly — there are times when you get so burnt-out, you vow to never walk through the doors again.  Then the faces show up in your dreams; you find yourself thinking about the little things you can do to help move the mission of the shelter forward; you miss it; you yearn for it; you realize that you’d rather live a life of ‘burnt-out’ than a life without the animals, the kindly pure souls that we serve.

So, what keeps me going for seven years?

The team.

We have an incredible team of volunteers who give their hearts, minds, time, souls, tears, laughter….and their best selves….to this shelter.  We started out as a small circle that went through growing pains, trying to figure out each others’ strengths, trying to figure out our roles — where to step, where not to step — trying to figure out how to make our personalities mesh with each other.  That small circle has stayed strong.

Some people look at the core group at the shelter and call us a ‘clique’.  Google defines a clique as:  a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.

In all honesty — that may be true.  It is hard to invite others to join a group that has figured out how to work with each others’ strengths.  Bringing a new person in creates growing pains, changes the dynamics, and sometimes adds in an element that causes friction.  Sometimes those growing pains, changes, and the friction is necessary for growth and for moving a mission forward, however.  That is why we invite new volunteers periodically to become a part of a mission that is so dear to us, so important, and so necessary.

Let me tell you a secret.  Seven years ago, I was an outsider.  I had to prove my worth.  I had to prove my commitment.  I had to prove that I had what it takes to make it as a part of the team.  It took a while.  The officers had to learn how to trust me.  I had to earn that trust.

In the end, whether you are still in training as a volunteer or whether you have been with the Harrison County Humane Society of Iowa since the papers were signed making it a 501(c)3 organization….you are a part of a team.  As a team, we work together to make each day just a little better for the animals in our care…and, in the end, find them the loving, forever home that they so, so deserve to have.  I know that I can speak for, for lack of a better word – the ‘clique’ – when I say that every single volunteer is valued.  There is a reason why you wanted to be a part of this organization.  For each one, it’s different.  But what we all have in common, is that we all have a heart that yearns for advocacy, that yearns for making a difference in the lives of others.

We choose animals.

And I’m so glad, and grateful, that each one of you has as well.

 

October 2017

As I reflect upon our summer Fundraising season — and we had a lot of them — I am always in awe and thankful for the support we get from our local community.  It is so amazing to watch everyone come together for the benefit of stray and unwanted cats and dogs in Harrison County.

I will be honest, there are days that shelter work is draining.  There are phone calls that raise your hackles.  There are moments when dogs and cats come in in such deplorable conditions that you cry, scream, and shout profanities.

But when the community comes together to help raise thousands of dollars over the summer all for the purpose of helping those dogs and cats become healthy, vital members of a forever home…it’s definitely worth it.

So… thank you to everyone who shares in our mission of helping all of the animals of Harrison County have proper vaccinations, proper veterinary care, nutritious food, ample exercise, and the best chance at a happy life ever!

Thank you for sharing our posts to get dogs and cats back home.  Thank you for sharing our posts to get dogs and cats adopted.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!