Board president Jane Weatherford and shelter dog Gretchen.
by Barney Quick
There are few places more heart-wrenching to visit than an animal shelter. Cage after cage is filled with cats and dogs wondering what will become of them. The staff not only has to keep the poignancy of that in perspective, it has to cope with the sheer volume of creatures in its care.
The Brown County Humane Society’s shelter at 128 S. State Road 135 manages this balancing act with admirable grace and efficiency. The onsite staff is half the reason for this. The other half is a generous network of volunteers, donors, and board members who share a vision of homes for as many of the shelter’s residents as possible.
The matter of sheer numbers is acute in Brown County. The national average for the number of animals entering shelters is 24 per 1,000 people. Here, the ratio is 100 animals per 1,000 people. At the shelter, cat cages are stacked in hallways, storage areas and office areas. Some smaller dogs roam the building.
Still, most of the cats and dogs housed there have a chance. “We’re very proud of our 91 percent out-alive rate,” says shelter manager Jaime Robbins. “The national average is 50 percent.” Not bad for a facility that accommodates 1,400 animals per year. Most of those euthanized have severe medical problems or aggressive natures.
The shelter is open five days a week, excluding Tuesdays and Thursdays. On those days, the staff conducts heartworm testing and behavior testing and works with veterinarians and foster homes.
The floor plan of the shelter includes a reception area and front office, a meet-and-greet-room, a room designated for cat pens, a kennel for dogs, a laundry room, an examination-and-surgery room, an isolation room for scared and sick cats, and storage areas. That’s the official layout; in actuality, most rooms wind up serving more than one purpose.
The facility understandably goes through a lot of food. In addition to food for the onsite animals, it operates a food assistance program for low income households, provided their pets are spayed or neutered. “We see that service as temporary in each case,” says Robbins. “We don’t want to be feeding someone’s pets for ten years.”
Cleanliness is a high priority at the shelter. Robbins notes that each cage is cleaned every day, including holidays.
Area veterinarians perform surgeries and prescribe medications. They also review the log sheets, which are kept on each animal. Vets are paid a flat fee for each spaying and neutering procedure.
The adoption application stipulates that the applicant be 18 years of age, able and willing to devote proper time and money to pet care, willing to have the animal spayed or neutered, able to provide identification and, if applicable, landlord’s consent. “Our shelter does a really good job at placement,” says Humane Society board president Jane Weatherford.
Robbins says that the shelter’s budget is tight. The society is a private organization, dependent for financing on adoption fees, donations, and grants. The yearly cost to run the shelter is $250,000. It has a contract with the county to take in strays brought by animal control.
The society’s three main fundraising events are a springtime Dog Walk, a late-summer Barn Sale, and a holiday-season Chocolate Walk. This year’s Chocolate Walk will take place on November 14. In the weeks until then, the public can buy packets that include a button identifying the purchaser as a participant, a ticket, and a booklet guiding one along the walk. Shops in Nashville that sell chocolate, as well as some visiting Bloomington chocolatiers, will be offering their wares that Saturday. Packets can be obtained at the shelter, the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Chocolate Emporium in Bloomington, and all four Bloomingfoods locations.
The Humane Society always needs volunteers. They run events such as Chocolate Walk and also help with picking up supplies, running animals to veterinarian clinics, and cleaning the animals.
The number-one message Robbins wishes to convey to the public is the importance of having pets spayed and neutered. Weatherford adds that “even if you’re looking for a purebred dog or cat, you should still check with your local shelter. The national average is 25 percent for purebreds taken in by shelters.”
For information call (812) 988-7362.