Humane Society votes to close shelter at month's end
After months of fighting to stay open, the Humane Society of Putnam County has become the latest community victim of the poor economy and planned to close its shelter by the end of September.
Board members expressed frustration during the lengthy regular meeting before reaching the difficult decision.
"This year has been such a rough year for all non-profits that rely upon donations, particularly the animal shelters all across Indiana," HSPC Board of Directors President Kraig Kinney noted. "It is particularly sad in that we have one of the best executive directors and staff the shelter has seen in its years of operations."
Board members echoed Kinney's assessment and noted their overwhelming support for the work and performance of Director Lynelle Cullen.
"Lynelle went above and beyond the expectations for a director," Kinney added. "She did such long hours and went above and beyond to help animals that it is hard to have to lay off someone of such caliber."
The shelter will officially close on Friday, Sept. 30. The board authorized Cullen to give away animals to good homes in the next few weeks and issued a deadline that any remaining animals will have to be euthanized as of Sept. 30.
Shelter hours remain Tuesday and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.
"While the overwhelming response has been community support," Board President Kinney said, "there have been those that have questioned 'How could this happen? Mismanagement?'
"That is absolutely not the case. Starting last year and all of this year, we have carefully tracked financial records," he stressed. "Fiscal responsibility was foremost on the minds of the current board, given the accusations in the past.
"The issue is that you cannot support an entire organization on small donations alone," Kinney added. "The cost of adoptions was set according to the costs of medical treatment and spay/neuter prior to adoption. That does not cover other costs such as utilities and payroll for a skeleton staff making just at minimum wage."
The board considered increasing the adoption fees but adoption numbers were already down, Kinney said. "This was tragically and simply a failure on the income side to balance the true expenses relating to animal care."
Cullen expressed hope that members of the community will adopt the remaining cats and dogs preventing the need for euthanasia. As word of mouth spread about the closing, she reported 28 weekend adoptions.
The board has authorized the Executive Committee to monitor the closing and to formulate long-terms plans for existing debt.
"We are closing with a fair amount of debt and there are still payrolls that we must meet for the remaining weeks," Kinney said. "Our current plan is to keep the Rescued Treasures store open on Indiana Street to both pay down debt and also build a better reserve in case the shelter is reopened in the future."
Cullen noted that the store has generated as much as $1,000 per month in sales on donated goods, which assists the shelter operations. But that was not enough money to meet payroll to care for the animals, the costs of medical care for the animals, and other expenditures such as utilities.
The board also noted that they hoped the community would continue to be supportive with donations or hold fundraisers to help cover debt and possibly set up for a future reopening.
"One possible scenario would be that if animals were still at the shelter as of Sept. 30 but there were sufficient volunteers and some funds for utilities, those animals might not have to be immediately euthanized." Kinney said. "So additional funding at this point will still help the Humane Society and animal welfare."
As had previously been reported, the cost of keeping the animals healthy and caring for them during their shelter stay is more expensive than the amount that can be charged for adoptions and still result in a good flow of adoptions.
"This was a stressful and difficult decision," Kinney said. "But we are out of money despite the donations of many members of our community. Our staff is dedicated to the safe transfer of hopefully all the animals before the end of the month as long as we find good homes for them."
There is a Friends of the Humane Society that will collect donations for a possible reopening, Kinney said.
"But the board honestly feels that without some county government involvement, the shelter will not support itself with the high volume of animals in Putnam County that need assistance," he said. "The costs are just too high."
Information on specific animals is posted on Facebook under the Humane Society page.