It’s a warm summertime afternoon and a black cat is laying by the window. He looks happy, healthy and loved.
It’s a common scene in many American homes, however there’s one small difference.
There are 125 other cats, two dozen dogs and a handful of people buzzing about just steps away. It’s a typical Thursday at the Humane Society of Wayne County.
The not-for-profit organization, started in 1984, has been operating at their current location in Lyons since 1990. While the shelter normally runs at close to capacity, this is “kitten season”. It’s the 3-4 month period when HSWC sees more incoming cats than during any other time of year.
With a full time staff of only five people and three part time employees, the shelter relies heavily on a steady stream of volunteers to lend a hand.
Every year, HSWC receives approximately 1200 animals surrendered by the public. Each time an animal comes in they are given a health check. If they are deemed healthy enough, they’re given vaccinations and they are spayed or neutered.
It’s all done in an attempt to ensure the animal is healthy and adoptable. The cost? $200 to prepare a cat and $300 for a dog.
However the shelter has fixed prices for adoption that are well below that figure. As low as $65 for cats and $100 for dogs.
In addition, the Humane Society matches cats and dogs age 3 and older with residents age 50 and up. The “Adult Companion” program helps pay the up-front costs associated with obtaining a shelter animal.
It all sounds great unless you’re the one helping to keep the books.
That job belongs to Gordon “Skip” Meyer. The retired analytical chemist does everything from assisting with data entry to manning the front desk.
Meyer noted that many people are under a misconception that the HSWC is a chapter of the national Humane Society of the United States and therefore financially benefits from any donations. “Financially, we do not receive any funding from the national Humane Society or the government. We rely exclusively on fundrasiers, memberships and bequests.”
Limited funding and increasing pet populations are just another reason volunteers are so key to the ongoing success of the local operation.
Deana Costanza, who had volunteered walking dogs for several years, enjoyed it so much she decided to make things a bit more permanent. She is now the Dog Care Attendant at the shelter. “I’d volunteered for a number of years, so when an opportunity came up for a position, I decided to go for it.”
Costanza, who started last September says she always loved dogs and is grateful she gets to work with them everyday.
Equally grateful is one of the residents at HSWC, Betsy (pictured at right). Betsy is one of more than 2 dozen dogs currently available for adoption. She’s a Pit-Terrier mix and is as sweet as she looks. When asked about the negative connotation pitbulls can have, Costanza, who owns a pitbull herself, pointed to the issue of overbreeding. “Pitbulls are so overbred that it’s much more common to see them in these negative situations.”
Upon arrival at HSWC, each dog goes through a temper test to ensure they are safe and adoptable.
While the shelter is not a “no-kill”facility, Meyer mentioned that animals needing to be put down is on the decline over the past decade both nationally and locally. He attributed the decrease to better trained staff as well as a special fund the shelter has to assist with the cost of necessary surgeries such as amputations that formerly would have likely meant the end for an otherwise healthy dog.
Beyond adoptions, the HSWC also has programs to assist residents of Wayne County that wish to spay or neuter their pet. Eligible households that meet certain income limits may qualify for low cost services.
To learn more about the Humane Society of Wayne County you can find them on Facebook at facebook.com/hswaynecounty or on their website at www.hswaynepets.org/.