Shelter strong after first year

Published 2:32 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2006

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
It's been a whirlwind year for the Escambia County Humane Society, which took over full responsibility on Dec. 14, 2004.
Beginning with the basics, and with the help of local entities including the Neal Trust and NDI, the facility invested nearly $20,000 in repairs, which included new fencing, electrical upgrades, the replacement of all ceiling tires and purchased two new washer and dryers, among other things.
Carol Gordy, an avid animal lover and chairman and CEO of NDI, had her company donate and install office furniture, a pressure washer and an awning for the facility.
Jones said the Society just received a bid to allow the replacement of the air conditioning and heating unit in the kennels.
In 2003, when the city owned the facility, they had an intake of 792 animals and adopted out 60 animals. In 2005, the Humane Society took in 2,453 animals and adopted 406 out, a number that has more than doubled. &#8220Our pure rate of adoptions is good. It's just the numbers we bring in that's horrendous,” Jones said.
Jones said she has some plans for the upcoming year, which includes a few more building improvements, replacing the wood resting benches with newer ones that can be disinfected properly and replacing the concrete floor that currently isn't sealed.
One of Jones' big goals is to create an education program that is more structured and age appropriate. The Humane Society recently purchased a projector and computer laptop to help aid in the implementation of the program, which will educate school-age children on how to properly care for an animal and what the Humane Society does as an entity.
Also in the works is implementing a spay/neuter program in the state that would allow low to moderate income households to have their pet spayed or neutered.
Jones attended a conference in Atlanta that focused on such a program. In the state of Georgia, a car tag is available where funds go directly to a spay/neuter program helping families who cannot provide the proper precautions against the overgrowing pet population.
If Alabama gets the program together and gets the car tag to help with funding, the next step is to determine how they will gauge the program, whether it is akin to a food stamp card or a Medicaid card.
The Humane Society recently purchased a 12-foot enclosed trailer to help transport animals during a disaster. The Department of Agriculture is putting together and offering training for a disaster team in each county that would aid in animal response.
In Mississippi and Louisiana, pets were a major news issue during Hurricane Katrina, when thousands of pets were displaced because so many facilities were becoming overcrowded or hotels would not accept pets. &#8220More and more they're understanding the necessity of evacuating pets,” Jones said.
The Humane Society needs volunteers to help out during the week. There are 25 volunteers who come in on the weekends.
One of the Humane Society's biggest assets, Jones said, is Troy Ward. He comes in every day and walks the dogs. They call him the No. 1 dog walker.
Jones said the Humane Society is also asking for volunteers to help with transportation, whether to an environmental center or the airport.
On many occasions, people from out of state are willing to adopt, some as far away as Atlanta, Seattle, even San Francisco, and are flown out of the Mobile airport.
Jones encourages those who have lost a pet to come into the shelter and look. Calling the shelter and giving a description is not as effective, she said. And, if you're in the market for a new animal, always consider adopting.
Allergic to pets but still want to help out? Jones said she is always in the market for some type of donation.
The walls are covered with thank you notes from families who have adopted pets, and the adoption process couldn't have been done without the staff, board members and volunteers who wear many hats at the shelter.

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