The Franklin County Humane Society (FCHS) in 2012 saw the least activity ever in its 18 years of operation.
The shelter took in the fewest animals ever, with a total of 1,999 animals, including 952 dogs and 1,047 cats. The number is lower than in 2011, in which the FCHS took in 2,487 animals — 1,152 dogs and 1,335 cats.
Karen Tudor, FCHS executive director, Donna King, shelter manager, and Jean Seidel, office manager, said the lower numbers aren’t cause to celebrate, however. The women are concerned that there are many more animals that should be coming through the shelter doors.
“We’d like to think there are fewer animals homeless, unwanted or suffering, but there is still that lingering question,” Tudor said.
In fact, the women have seen their share of suffering in several of the animals who have been brought in.
One dog brought in from the Sullivan area this past February, for instance, was found chained to a tree with a muzzle around her nose and mouth. She and her puppies were left in the woods to die in below freezing temperatures.
In another case, a cat was thrown out of a car window. The cat had lifesaving surgery and is now available for adoption.
This year alone, they have seen animals who were feral, hit by cars, shot by people, infected and some who had mortal wounds.
“Our biggest accomplishment is that we are able to be here to keep more animals from suffering,” Tudor said. “It’s been a rough several years with the funds dwindling and people not having as much disposable income to adopt or donate.”
The shelter has worked to implement efforts to keep costs down, as well as to find new sources of funding.
For the past couple of years, King has worked to schedule the drop-off of owner-surrendered animals.
“It helps us know what we’re facing instead of getting slammed,” Tudor said. “It gives us a little predictability.”
Scheduling in animals also helps prevent overcrowding and helps move animals more quickly, Seidel noted.
The shelter also relies on a foster network, as well as rescue organizations. It utilizes services such as the Petfinder website and adopts pets through PetCo and PetSmart stores.
Because the shelter took in fewer animals, other income streams are down. For example, when a city’s animal control brings in an animal, the city is responsible for a fee to help care for the animal. In 2012, animal control funding was down about $12,000.
“We have to become more dependent on donors and fund-raisers,” Tudor said.
Last year alone, the shelter lost $21,000. To make up for the loss, the women have to dip into bequests, which are “dwindling to a dangerously low level,” Tudor said.
In the shelter lobby hangs a white board with monthly expenses.
In February, utilities were $1,994; medical bills totaled $2,837; microchips were $1,025; surgeries were $2,850; animal care was $1,476 and shelter supplies were $1,136. Other expenses also are listed.
In 2012, a total of 821 animals were adopted, including 495 cats and 326 dogs. An additional 170 lost pets were returned home and 75 were transferred to rescue groups.
Dogs are much more likely to see positive outcomes than cats. In 2012, 87 percent of adoptable dogs and 43 percent of adoptable cats saw positive outcomes. A positive outcome includes being returned to the owner or adopted.
In 2011, 944 animals were adopted and 216 were returned to their owners. A total of 77 were transferred. Eighty percent of dogs and 46 percent of cats saw positive outcomes.
This year, 31 percent of adoptions were through PetCo and PetSmart off-site adoptions. The number is similar to 2011, in which 30 percent of adoptions were off-site.
Spaying and neutering have helped, center officials said, but cats and kittens still have a long way to go.
The shelter took in 67 dog litters, 38 from owners and 29 stray litters, compared to 151 cat litters, of which 61 were from owners and 90 were stray litters. This amounted to 899 animals, compared to 1,024 animals from litters in 2011 and 1,201 in 2010.
The shelter continues to offer low-cost spay and neuter coupons. In 2012, a total of 645 were sold, compared to 624 in 2011.
Tudor encourages people who have cats they feed or take care of to make sure they are spayed or neutered.
“We could make a dent in the influx of cats if people could realize that if the cat is living on their property they should do something about it,” she said.
The shelter regularly applies for grants to help fund the cost of spaying and neutering in the community.
In 2011, the FCHS upgraded its computer system and computers. This past year, the kinks were ironed out and the conversion from the old system was completed.
The new system allows the shelter to more reliably track kennel tags, rabies tags, microchips and other forms of identification.
It is more comprehensive in that it automatically searches when a pet is brought in to see if there is a similar lost report.
Many of the functions are the same, Tudor noted, but more reliable.
In 2012, the shelter worked to keep the interior looking nice by painting and cleaning up. East Central College students currently are working on murals on several of the shelter walls.
Additionally, the parking lot was repaved this past year and drains were added for the overflow of water.
The main goal for 2013, the women said, is to reduce the number of homeless cats in the community through more spaying and neutering.
“There are so many cats being born who never get a chance to enjoy life with a loving family,” Tudor said. “A lot of suffering can be prevented if we reduce breeding in cats.
Tudor said the community has successfully managed the dog population, but focus needs to be shifted to cats.
The shelter also needs volunteers who are willing to implement a good, solid fund-raiser.
There are three main fund-raisers each year, including Hawgs for Dogs poker run, which will be April 27; Wine, Whiskers and Wags, which is set for Aug. 17, and Strut Your Mutt, which will be held in early September.
A rummage sale is in the works and a date will be announced later. Donations soon will be accepted.
To help make the rummage sale into a yearly fund-raiser, the shelter is in need of a large trailer that can be used year-round for storage of rummage items.
The trailer is at the top of the wish list, but a more comprehensive list can be found on the shelter website, http://www.franklincountyhumanesociety.org.
Other much-needed items include Lowe’s or Wal-Mart gift cards, blankets, Iams kitten food, kitten formula, heavy duty floor scrubber, and plastic dog kennels.
Financial donations are always needed and appreciated, Tudor noted, adding that $20 can provide one set of vaccinations, $25 can provide X-rays for an injured animal, $30 can microchip one pet and provide a rabies vaccination or sponsor an adopt-a-pet ad, and $50 can provide one spay/neuter surgery with pain medication.
Even small donations make a difference, King said, as kitten food is $8 per bag and $10 will feed a litter of kittens for one week.
Gerald, Union, St. Clair and Washington all have animal control contracts, in which the city has agreed to be responsible for the cost of taking care of the animals it brings in.
There continues to be hundreds of animals from the county that no one is responsible for, Tudor noted. In 2012, there were 897 animals brought in from unincorporated Franklin County, including 629 strays.
About 45 percent of animals are brought in from unincorporated Franklin County (outside any city’s limits), which means the shelter received no funding to care for those animals.
Tudor said that it would be helpful if the county would adopt a policy consistent with the cities.
By taking these animals in, Tudor said, the shelter plays a huge public health and safety role in the county, reducing the incidence of animal disease, bite attack or animal nuisance.
“I’m proud that we’re able to do what we are, but I wish we enjoyed the support of our county financially,” Tudor said.
It costs about $85 to keep a stray animal for the state required minimum of five business days and one Saturday, which amounts to more than $50,000 for stray animals picked up from unincorporated Franklin County in 2012 alone.
Tudor, Seidel and King all worry that people avoid bringing animals to the shelter because they think the animals don’t have a chance there.
To put an end to rumors, the women noted that they do adopt out pit bulls. In fact, they get the same chance as all other animals who enter the shelter.
“Fewer unspayed or unneutered animals on the streets means fewer unwanted animals across the board . . . and we are here to take in the rest that are unwanted or stray and provide health care and better options,” Tudor said.
“All animals get a chance here,” King added.
“The stigma is the worst thing,” Tudor said. “I think people misunderstand. We give every one a chance.”