Rock County Humane Society sees fewer animals in 2011
Changes at the Rock County Humane Society might be helping to keep down the number of animals coming in to the crowded facility. Executive Director Angela Rhodes tells the Gazette they now charge municipalities for each animal they bring in, which means they're trying harder to get strays to their owners before taking them to the humane society. Kyle Geissler reports.
Some members at Tuesday's annual meeting expressed concern at what they said was a lack of communication or information about Rock County Humane Society Board meetings and activities. To ensure society members or members of the public are getting shelter news and information, board members suggested they visit rockcountyhumanesociety.com and sign up for email alerts.
JANESVILLE The number of animals coming into the Rock County Humane Society declined slightly in 2011, a humane society official says.
The drop can in part be attributed to contracts with local municipalities that push the responsibility of animal control back to those municipalities, Executive Director Angela Rhodes said.
The shelter in 2012 will continue to stand by those contracts and educate the community on the difference between shelter services and animal control services, she said.
Rhodes and members of the humane society board Tuesday night spoke to about 20 members of the public, many of them society members, at the humane society's annual meeting.
Rhodes read a statement during the meeting that addressed some concerns that have been raised by members of the public and local elected officials since Rhodes took over as the shelter director in 2008.
One major change has been an attempt to separate the shelter's role of providing temporary care for adoptable animals. The shelter's job is not to provide care and treatment to stray animals during the seven-day, state-mandated waiting period after a stray animal is picked up off the street, Rhodes said.
That role belongs to municipalities, she said. Over the course of many years, however, Rock County residents started blurring the two jobs and assuming the local humane society did both. Workers at the shelter care greatly for animals, so they didn't work to clarify the roles.
"The Rock County Humane Society's image has morphed into a ‘pound' in many people's eyes," Rhodes said.
The humane society cannot continue to do both jobs well, Rhodes said.
Starting last year, the humane society changed the way it contracts with local municipalities. The charges changed to per-animal fees for the shelter to house strays as opposed to what had been an annual lump sum.
If a municipality does not have a contract with the shelter, it has to find a way to deal with its stray animals on its own.
The change has motivated local municipalities to work harder to figure out where a runaway dog or cat came from, Rhodes said. This has helped reduce the number of strays coming into the shelter.
The change is necessary because the humane society does not have the space or the resources to care for adoptable animals with known backgrounds and, at the same time, care for stray animals, she said. When people donate money to the shelter, they want it to be used to care for an adoptable animal, not to quarantine a stray, she said.
"If someone donates $100, we shouldn't spend that $100 to keep an animal in a stray hold for seven days," Rhodes said.
Rhodes is hopeful that a feasibility study recently conducted by the city of Janesville will shed some light on a way forward. The shelter has contracts with the cities of Beloit and Janesville, which are the biggest sources of strays in the county.
Audience members asked questions of the board about its activities and the operation of the shelter.
Jan Hoopes of Janesville asked why the shelter doesn't contract with a local veterinarian for spaying and neutering services. She said working with local professionals could improve the humane society's relationship with the community.
The shelter contracts with a specialist who can perform between 20 and 40 such surgeries in a day, Rhodes said. The contracted veterinarian comes to the shelter once a week. It is a very specialized skill to do so many surgeries in one day as opposed to the three or so a local veterinarian would be likely to handle.
From the audience, society member Maribeth Lindstrand of Beloit said this system helps move animals more quickly through the shelter. Previously, when fewer surgeries were performed at a time, adopted animals sometimes had to stay in the shelter to wait for surgery before they could go home, Lindstrand said.
The shelter's financial report showed a good year for 2011, according to humane society data. The shelter's net income was $286,589, which was considerably higher than the budgeted loss of $47,000. The change came from two substantial donations left by the estates of shelter members, Treasurer Julie Michaelson said. The humane society does not budget for such donations.
BY THE NUMBERS
$1.808 million: Total assets and liabilities for 2011, an increase of $276,000 over last year.
$991,087: Revenue for 2011, which was $176,587 over budget.
$286,589: Net income, which was $333,589 over budget.
12 percent: Decrease in number of dogs taken in.
15 percent: Decline in dog adoptions.
63 percent: Decline in euthanasia of dogs since 2008. The figures translate into a 90 percent save rate for dogs.
12 percent: Decrease in number of cats taken in.
7 percent: Increase in cat adoptions.
33 percent: Oneyear decrease in euthanasia of cats. In 2008, less than 70 percent of shelter cats were euthanized. Now, 50 percent of the cats that enter the shelter are saved.
—Source: Rock County Humane Society data