Group delays ask to oversee new shelter
Story and photos by Jeff Keeling
The Humane Society of Washington County has withdrawn its request to oversee operations at Johnson City’s new animal shelter, but that change of plans won’t slow down a fast-growing movement to increase pet adoptions and decrease shelter euthanizations.
That was the word last week from Humane Society President Lucinda Grandy – who shared a letter referencing the society’s deferral of the shelter request that was presented to the Washington County-Johnson City Animal Control Board (ACB) Tuesday night after News and Neighbor’s deadline. And it was clearly indicated by another successful adoption event at the Johnson City PetSmart store Saturday.
That meant good news for Olena Reece on her fourth birthday, who adopted a Siamese mix kitten out of foster care and named her Bella.
The society has held such events at least bi-monthly since the spring, and the number of animals euthanized has dropped in concert with that and other efforts dating back to last year. These include a foster program that has seen the number of homes willing to temporarily foster dogs or cats grow to more than 100.
Grandy, who was at Saturday’s adoption event, told News and Neighbor the letter to ACB members sums up the Humane Society’s current approach to involvement with the new, 18,000-square-foot shelter due to come on line next spring. Members voted unanimously to defer, but not necessarily abandon, their previous offer to develop a business plan that would include a new executive director position funded through the society.
That Oct. 8 offer/request, which came a month after the ACB asked the society to consider a formal role in the adoption process at the new shelter. Though Grandy said it wasn’t intended to, the request created some tension with the current shelter’s management. Director Debbie Dobbs, who would have maintained animal control oversight in the new plan, told the News and Neighbor in mid-October she favors a partnership with the society playing a major role on the adoption side, but added that “a partnership is a lot different than a takeover.”
The Humane Society’s letter dated Tuesday notes its members “remain committed to our priorities of growing our foster program to divert animals from being euthanized due to shelter overpopulation.” The program also assures such animals are spayed or neutered and medically ready for adoption. The letter also stated the society’s intention to continue to “aggressively organize” local adoption events and to maintain its strong spay-neuter program.
The letter also indicates the society “will prioritize resources to begin an education and awareness program to showcase the numbers, health and needs of unwanted animals in our community.” The entire letter can be viewed here: HumaneSociety_letter.
If the numbers are any indication, the combined efforts of Dobbs and the shelter staff with the Humane Society are making a dramatic difference. February through June comparisons from 2013 and 2014 show euthanizations dropping each month compared with the same month the previous year: 179 to 77 in February, 205 to 98 in March, 164 to 117 in April, 310 to 159 in May, and 500 to 311 in June.
That’s partly down to families like the Pates of Johnson City. Rachel Pate learned about the foster program recently and knew she, husband Todd, and sons Abel, 9, and Eri, 6, would provide a good, loving foster home. A couple of weeks ago they took in “Roberta,” a terrier mix about seven years old. They call her “Robbie Burns” around the house, where their two Chihuahuas seem to have adjusted.
Roberta was at PetSmart Saturday, and she found a home that day. The Pates are already enjoying their next assignment, a 10-year-old female dog.
“I encourage anybody to do it,” Rachel Pate said. “It’s saving a life.”
Learn more at hswctn.org or the Humane Society of Washington County Facebook page.