‘Desperate’ Humane Society seeks donations

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 14, 2000

&uot;We’re desperate.&uot; Gerry Stern offers her plea only half-jokingly these days.

Stern, a longtime volunteer with the Natchez-Adams County&160;Humane Society, recently compiled the statistics which detail the society’s work during the past fiscal year.

&uot;We’ve had more animals come through the shelter this past fiscal year than every before,&uot; Stern said.

Email newsletter signup

The total — 2,272 — is about 100 more than the previous year. &uot;In the end, it turned out to be only a few more than last year, but it felt like there was a whole lot more,&uot; she said.

In fact, for Stern and other volunteers with the society — particularly those who work at the Liberty Road shelter — the daily inflow of abandoned or stray animals can be overwhelmingly heartbreaking.

And, more than a bit discouraging.

&uot;Why have we had more? Because people are not spaying a neutering their animals,&uot; Stern said. &uot;One man from Meadville brought in 24 puppies over the course of three days. And it’s not the first time he’s done this … he just refuses to spay his female (dogs.)&uot;

But, because the society is committed to protecting these animals, volunteers keep taking those puppies.

&uot;We cannot refuse to take those puppies because there’s no telling what he would do to them,&uot; Stern said.

Volunteer manager Pat Cox has seen what can happen to those unwanted puppies. &uot;We’ve gotten dogs from dumpsters way out in the county … thank goodness someone brings them here … where at least they have a chance.&uot;

Giving those unwanted, abandoned and stray animals a chance is a central focus of the shelter. Last year, 11 percent of the animals taken in were adopted and 5 percent were reclaimed by owners.

Still, the euthanasia rate was 67 percent.

&uot;When you see all those numbers coming off the computer of animals who have been put down, it just breaks your heart,&uot; Stern said.

The society is doing what it can to educate the public about responsible pet ownership. And, a new policy in place requires that all adult animals be spayed or neutered before leaving the shelter … guaranteeing that important step is taken. Owners who adopt puppies or kittens are notified when the animal is eligible for spaying or neutering, and urged to follow-through on their oath to do so.

&uot;That is helping,&uot; Stern said.

But, it’s not enough. ‘Old habits die hard,&uot; Cox said.

And, unfortunately for the shelter, old perceptions die hard, too.

Both Cox and Stern are convinced that many people in the public don’t understand the scope of the shelter’s work — and the cost of doing that work.

&uot;We had to tell one lady that we don’t get free vet care for our animals,&uot; Cox said.&160;&uot;They help us (by limiting costs) but it’s not free … we even have some people who call us and want to bring their animals for checkups.&uot;

Each healthy animal taken in at the shelter receives vaccinations and deworming treatments. For sick or injured animals, &uot;we do whatever we have to,&uot; Cox said.

Add to that the expense of feeding and housing the animals and spaying or neutering them before they leave the shelter, and the average $30 adoption fee doesn’t cover the costs. &uot;We come out in the hole on every animal,&uot; Stern said.

With only $33,000 in guaranteed funding each year — $15,000 from city government, $10,000 from county government $8,000 from the United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou Inc. — the society relies on fundraisers and memorials to generate the remainder of its $81,000 annual budget.

In addition to the popular &uot;Bark in the Park&uot; event, the society continues to rely heavily on the &uot;Animal Affair&uot; parties. The 15th annual event takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Traveler’s Rest, the home of Windell Weeden and Steve Cook. The donation to attend is $10 per person. The casual dress parties draw 300 to 400 participants each time, Stern said, and are quite popular.

More important, they’re successful at helping generate the funds so desperately needed for the society to continue to do its work.

&uot;It just keeps getting worse each year,&uot; Cox said. &uot;But we’ve got to keep on trying … God knows, there’s a need.&uot;