Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

The Natchez Democrat

The design is not fancy. No Ritz on Liberty Road. And it is high time to move forward with the simple new shelter building Natchez Humane Society supporters hope to build for homeless animals, said volunteer Linda Harper.

For years, the Humane Society has made do with the inadequate quarters at the Liberty Road site. Now, with a gift of drawings by Natchez architect Charles Moroney, the rest is up to donors. Harper is sure they are out there, eager to give Natchez’s needy animals a better chance for adoption.

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&uot;We’re asking for so little,&uot; Harper said. &uot;Natchez is full of animal lovers. We know Natchez can afford this and will give to this.&uot;

Only days ago, a young family who had found a lost cat and returned it to its owner brought the reward money to the shelter to donate it rather than pocket it, Harper said. Stories such as that abound.

Volunteer Pat Cox, who has served the society and shelter for 14 years, said the new building not only will provide more suitable space for the animals but also will inspire more volunteers and more adopting of the dogs and cats at the shelter.

A new building will be easier to maintain. A room set aside for prospective adopters to be alone with a pet for a while before making a decision will lead to better matches between man and animal. A room for sick animals will provide needed isolation. And a room set aside for cats will ease the stress of their sharing the same spaces with dogs.

The goal of the fundraising for the new shelter is $250,000. Plans call for the building to be on the same site on Liberty Road. The present building will be razed.

Volunteer Nan Garrison said the removal of the old building should inspire celebration. &uot;Our building is horrendous. It needs to be bulldozed away,&uot; she said.

Raising funds to operate the shelter takes plenty of volunteer time, Garrison said. &uot;We raise about $70,000 a year just for operating costs. We have huge water, sewer and vet bills.&uot; With $15,000 from the city and not quite $10,000 from the county, the society barely meets its $100,000 annual budget.

The shelter employs two full-time employees and one part-time, all at minimum wage, Cox said. &uot;Volunteers do all the rest. We have no administrative costs.&uot;

Volunteers do not complain. Harper said they are dedicated to making a difference. &uot;This is the only thing I do,&uot; she said. &uot;I go out and beg for these animals. I look at their precious innocent faces and know many of them are going to be put down because they won’t be adopted.&uot;

Garrison said people who have not been to the shelter may be surprised at the assortment of dogs and cats there. &uot;It’s amazing what we have &045; Shih Tzu, dachshund, schnauzer, lots of Labs and Lab mixes.&uot;

Some of the most important fund-raising efforts of the Humane Society will be held in the next two months, including the Sept. 17 Bark in the Park and the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, Oct. 14-16, where the society is one of several recipients of balloon race proceeds.