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Humane Society wants to reopen shelter 'as soon as possible'

Monday, April 30, 2012

It has now been more than six months since the Humane Society of Putnam County closed the county's only animal shelter. Because of that length of time, the organization's board members and volunteers have been receiving an increased number of inquiries as to when they plan to reopen.

"We have been told how necessary our services are to the community. We are receiving numerous calls concerning neglected, abused, abandoned and stray animals. We also have received calls from owners needing to find new homes for their pets," reports Lynn Bohmer, board president. "More than anyone, we want to reopen as soon as possible."

The board remains committed to reopening with a sustainable plan. The shelter has closed at least three times in its 20-year history due to fiscal difficulties. The board recognizes that it cannot operate a shelter and animal services with a budget heavily based on animal adoptions and donations.

When the economy suffers, the Humane Society suffers. Donations decrease as more animals are neglected or abandoned. In difficult economic times, families turn to the Humane Society for help to properly care for them.

Over that past 10 years, the annual cost of running the shelter has averaged $150,000 to $180,000.The board and shelter staff have worked hard to keep costs consistent despite obvious inflation.

Regardless, Bohmer says people are often surprised at that figure until they consider that shelter animals need care seven days a week. More than half of each year's expenses are personnel costs.

Upon closure in September 2011, the Humane Society was more than $36,000 in debt.

Kraig Kinney, 2011 HSPC president, announced that the Humane Society could not reopen until all debt was repaid, its endowment at the Putnam County Foundation was significantly increased, the budget had a solid record of financially reliable fundraisers, and the Humane Society had reached an agreement with local governments to partner in animal care and control services.

The question still remains. When will the shelter reopen?

Bohmer reports that the board hopes all debt will be repaid by the end of the year.

The store, Rescued Treasures (now in the old Brackney's Western Store building on U.S. 231 North), and donation boxes throughout the county are reportedly doing well financially. Friends of the Humane Society had a successful fundraiser in December and are planning another in the fall.

Individuals and local service organizations have held and continue to plan fundraisers. The Humane Society has applied to take part in the Putnam County Foundation's "Endowment Builder" program to begin in May. Soon, the board will begin a membership drive.

Most importantly, an ad hoc committee, comprised of local public officials and the Humane Society president, has begun to meet to discuss a private/public partnership to run the shelter and animal control.

"All in attendance understand the importance of having animal care and control in the county," Bohmer reports. "This committee really wants to construct a workable plan."

County Councilman and board member Phil Gick explained it could be a lengthy process. Most likely, shelter reopening will not happen until the work of the committee is accomplished and approved by the Humane Society and local governments.

At the last board meeting, Humane Society board members expressed concern about increased animal overpopulation during its closure. It agreed that 15 percent of all donations and fundraiser profits would be set aside for spay and neuter assistance. Details of the program will be made public in May.

The Humane Society board is continually reviewing its goal process. If it becomes apparent that goals cannot be reached within a reasonable time frame, the board reluctantly may have to visit the idea of becoming a service organization, focusing solely on spay-neuter assistance, providing a pet food bank for needy families, and promoting responsible pet ownership and humane education.

The board believes this to be a "last-resort" scenario. Casie Sambo, board member and DePauw student, emphasized, "It will be extremely hard to turn our backs on the abused, neglected, and abandoned pets in search of a second chance at a happy life, but we cannot open without a sustainable budget."

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