Natchez Humane Society among organizations needing funds

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; The events of Sept. 11, 2001, waged terror in the hearts of millions &045; and weakened our once stable economy.

The devastation has trickled far down the economic ranks from Wall Street to deep South, Natchez included.

Non-profit organizations, as well as businesses, are suffering as a result &045; and the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society, which houses about 2,500 pets a year, is perhaps a perfect example.

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According to Treasurer Anne Vaughn, the society currently receives $15,000 a year from the City of Natchez and $8,600 from Adams County, down 14 percent from the previous seven years.

As an agency of United Way, the shelter receives funds from that organization as well.

But this year’s allocations of $4,000 are also down 50 percent from last year and down 60 percent from the previous two years.

&uot;With the factories closing and donations down from United Way, the city and county, obviously, there will be cutbacks. It has gotten really drastic at the shelter,&uot; said District Attorney Ronnie Harper, who serves as a member of the board.

&uot;This is the worst financial shape we have been in. We are in desperate need of funds,&uot; Director Pat Cox said.

Allocated funds comprise only 33 percent of the shelter’s total revenues.

The remainder comes from individuals through fund-raising events, commemorative donations, contributions, membership dues and pet adoption and reclaims fees.

Payroll only makes up 30 percent of the organization’s total expenses.

The shelter only employs one part-time worker and two full-time workers, who are paid minimum wage with no benefits regardless of experience or length of employment. The remaining workers are volunteers.

The shelter’s financial report states the income from adoptions and reclaim fees total $13,500; however, basic expenses for animal care include $10,940 for veterinary services (85 percent comes from the cost of spay/neuter operations for adopted pets), $11,600 for food and $7,650 for medicine, leaving a deficit of $16,690 a year.

Vaughn said average monthly expenses total $7,750, but the shelter’s average monthly income totals only $6,850. The shelter began this fiscal year with a net loss of $2,500 from the previous year.

&uot;We are just in a financial emergency right now. Without any funds, we maybe closed in six months,&uot; said Linda Harper, the society’s secretary.

The shelter’s current bills include amounts owned to Pfizer Animal Medicine, pet food manufacturers, property /liability insurance premiums and a new heater for outdoor kennels &045; all totaling $6,760.

&uot;Just because you are a non-profit organization does not mean you don’t have bills. We get no breaks,&uot; Harper said.

Because of lack or space and funding, the shelter euthanizes approximately 60 percent to 70 percent of the animals in takes in each year.

&uot;People tend to want to leave the animals in the woods to take care of themselves, but they end up starving to death or getting run over by cars,&uot; Cox said. &uot;We have gotten animals who were neglected to come here starving and injured from cars.&uot;

&uot;We have found animals in the streets and even in dumpsters,&uot; Harper said. &uot;Don’t dump them. Bring them to the shelter. We might be overflowing, but at least they would be safe.&uot;

Susan Callon, president of the Humane Society, said the shelter is very important in animal control and for health reasons. And the shelter accepts all animals, not only cats and dogs.

&uot;It would help if people have their pets spayed or neutered,&uot; said Gerri Stern, one of the board members. &uot;The adoption fees cover that operation.&uot;

&uot;When we lose contact with the owner, it is hard to make sure that animals have been spayed or neutered,&uot; said society member Ronnie Harper.

Lack of funding is not the only dilemma the shelter is facing. The building itself, which is about 30 years old, has deteriorated over the years and is in desperate need of repairs.

&uot;The infrastructure is caving in. There are holes in the walls. We need a new air conditioning system,&uot; Ronnie Harper said.

&uot;We would love to have some electricians and carpenters volunteer to help us,&uot; Cox said.

The shelter appreciates their supporters, but it still needs about $20,000 to break even,&uot; Harper said.

If one would like to send any donations, please send them to P.O Box 549, Natchez, MS 39121.