To the Editor:
When I began to volunteer with the Marion County Humane Society (MCHS) nearly three years ago, I had little knowledge of the amount of time, effort and financial support that goes into caring for shelter animals. To say the least, my eyes have been opened after volunteering for a year, and then serving as the Assistant Director of MCHS for nearly two years. My purpose in writing this is to give the rest of the public a glimpse into the everyday happenings of a shelter and what is required to care for the animals that are brought to MCHS. In light of the recent publicity regarding contract negotiations with Marion County, I feel it is important for all to realize the vital public service provided by the hard-working staff and volunteers of MCHS and what a detriment it would be to our community and county to lose these services.
Marion County Humane Society is an independent non-profit organization providing care and adoption support for animals in need of a new home. When our new facility opened in 2008 we signed contracts with several local authorities, including Marion County, to hold and care for strays during their 7 day “hold” period.
As with other laws and local ordinances, it is the responsibility of local authorities to provide enforcement. Marion County Humane Society does not have the staff or resources to retrieve animals who may be found running at large 24/7. Nor is it within our mission or under our auspices.
Our current contract states that we will provide “animal shelter for animals collected or impounded”. Once animals are impounded, the law requires that the animals be “held” for seven days to give their owners an opportunity to claim them. All who have ever owned pets know, as we do, that much work – including daily cleaning, exercise, feeding, and medical care – is required when “holding” pets as we await the possibility of an owner stepping forward to claim them. Many animals come in needing immediate and costly medical attention, which MCHS provides. The funds we receive from Marion County, including the $50 per animal fee, pays for this service during the first seven days of an animal’s stay with us. After that seven-day period, Iowa Law allows the animal to become the property of MCHS. At this point, our contract requirements with local authorities are fulfilled and we then use the funds we raise through countless fundraisers and individual donors to pay the cost of spay/neuter, vaccinations and continued care so that the animal can be made available for adoption.
Last year alone each animal accounted for $182.55 in operating costs. However, this is only a fraction of what it truly costs to care for the animals. Ask the 13-year-old middle schoolers who donate every one of their Saturdays to caring for the animals, or the lady who religiously brings us a few bags of cat litter each month, or the many others who contribute. There is a lot that goes into the care of the animals that cannot be easily measured.
Regardless of who you are or what you have heard about the happenings of MCHS, I would encourage you to come and see for yourself. Talk with the staff or the volunteers and let them tell you the endless stories of the animals we have worked to save. Listen as they tell you about the endless hours, sweat, and tears and how it is all worth it when we get to see them go to loving homes and have a second chance at life. Listen as they tell you that we do all we can, but we don’t have the resources to provide 24/7 transport to animals who are found as strays. Listen as they tell you of each and every animal that would have been euthanized if MCHS did not exist to care for them and find their homes after the legal requirement to hold them was over.
Listen, and then call your county supervisors to let them know that this is not what you want to be the future for Marion County.