The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Business

November 10, 2012

Humane business

Rough economy accounts for large chunk of shelter animals

ANDERSON, Ind. — Holly the cat lives on a desk at the Madison County Humane Society.

She’s been the office pet there since January, when her owners lost their home and had to give her up.

“It’s sad,” said adoption coordinator and shelter manager Colleen Miller. “She’s such a good cat.” Miller has made it her mission to find “A Home for Holly for the Holidays.”

Holly’s story is not unusual. Miller estimates just under half of the roughly 50 stray dogs currently housed at the Humane Society are there because of the economy.

“You know they had to belong to somebody,” Miller said. “They look like they’ve been taken care of. They were just put out on the street” because the owner lost their job or home or couldn’t afford basic food and maintenance.

In 2009, when just under 4 million house foreclosures were filed in the U.S., the ASPCA urged pet owners in danger of losing their homes to try to arrange temporary foster care, find out if their pets are allowed at their new home or find out if their local animal shelter has space.

That’s what happened to Brownie, a 3-year-old chocolate lab. She’s been at the Humane Society for a month and a half but is headed to a lab rescue group in Kentucky this weekend.

It’s hard to quantify how many animals are actually forfeited or abandoned for financial reasons, said Maleah Stringer, executive director at the Animal Protection League, the city’s shelter.

“We always give them (pet owners) options” when they say they can’t afford to keep their pet, Stringer said. “We ask, ‘What do you need?’”

Both the APL and the Humane Society offer food assistance, and Stringer said the APL will help with some other things, like vaccinations.

Stringer said some owners truly can’t afford to keep their pets, and she understands that.

But that’s a small part of it, she said. “Once you close all those gaps, you know that (the economy) isn’t the real reason.”

Susie Schieve, director of the Madison County Humane Society, said it costs the organization about $175 to $200 to house the average large-breed dog for the first month, including shots, spaying/neutering, food, medication, paid employees, etc. Many upper-level positions — including her own — are not paid, she said.

The Humane Society takes in both city and county animals — about 50-60 a month — which “puts an extra stress on our intake,” Shieve said.

The shelter spent about $214,000 to keep its doors open last year. As of Nov. 1, the APL had taken in 1,963 animals and spent $340,000, Stringer said.

The APL gets some money from the city, but the Humane Society relies on fundraising and donations,

“Our donors are fabulous and generous,” Shieve said. But “every month is a challenge,” she said.

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter, or call 648-4250.

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