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Caring for our community's animals | Guest Column
Guest column by Eric Stevens, Executive Director for Kitsap Humane Society
When the Bremerton Police Department recently received an anonymous complaint about a small recreational trailer overrun with scores of cats and kittens, the first call they made was to Kitsap Humane Society’s Animal Control unit. Over a two-week period, KHS’ officers rescued 97 felines and took them to the shelter for medical care and preparation for adoption into new homes. Many of these cats already have been placed with new owners, while more await adoption.
This incident is a poignant example of the importance of a strong humane society in our community. KHS serves as a safety net for both people and animals, ensuring not only animal welfare, but public health and safety as well.
Your humane society is in critical need of continued strong financial support, through private donations, municipal animal control contracts, and citizens adopting animals in need.
Many people may not realize that KHS took in nearly 5,000 animals last year, including 2,579 strays. As an open admission shelter where no animal is turned away, KHS accepts both stray and owner-surrendered animals, as well as animals in distress recovered by its Animal Control unit.
KHS ensures that every animal admitted to the shelter is vaccinated and treated for parasites, ensuring the animals’ health and helping to control the spread of disease. KHS also helps pet owners reclaim lost animals. In 2012, 52% of all stray dogs brought to KHS were reunited with their owners .
KHS’ progressive animal welfare initiatives result in the vast majority of animals’ lives being saved. Many animals come to us wounded, sick and traumatized, but most of those are rehabilitated and adopted out with the help of skilled care, medical intervention and socialization provided by staff and volunteers. Euthanasia occurs about 6 percent of the time, when more severe medical or behavioral issues are present.
KHS sees a burgeoning animal population. The case of the 97 cats rescued in Bremerton is a dramatic case study of pet owners not being responsible about spaying/neutering their animals. KHS’ goal in 2013 is to increase spay/neuter surgeries from an all-time high of 3,751 in 2012 to 4,200. We can work with our community to prevent explosive population growth.
Our biggest challenge is financial sustainability.
With limited resources, KHS is remarkably efficient. We care for 25 percent fewer animals, yet operate with far less than half the budget of the Seattle Humane Society. But with the growing number of animals being brought in (we provided 108,000 days of care to animals last year) and the increasing number of spay/neuter surgeries being performed, KHS must generate about 10 percent more support from the community than last year.
Increasing donations is only one aspect of our three-business model. Second is running KHS with sound business practices, charging reasonable fees to surrender, adopt, reclaim or spay/neuter animals. Third, with more than 2,500 stray animals and nearly 2,000 animal control complaints received annually, it is critical that KHS maintain its’ funding via animal control contracts with Kitsap County, and Bremerton, Port Orchard, Bangor, Poulsbo and Port Orchard.
Just a year ago, KHS was at risk of falling apart. Many changes needed to be made to get the organization back on track and restore the community’s confidence. Since then we have rebuilt the Board of Directors and management team; strengthened the Board-staff partnership; implemented needed improvements in management and governance recommended by an independent external audit; restored public confidence in KHS – raised 31 percent more funds over 2011; and addressed severe budget shortfalls to move KHS toward sustainability
We deeply thank our dedicated staff, volunteers, government partners and the thousands of Kitsap residents who support KHS by donating financially or adopting their family pets from KHS.
Yet, while much progress has been made, KHS (and the animals we save) still face significant challenges.
We know that people care deeply about animals and that we need to maintain a strong partnership with our community, combined with sound financial stewardship, to ensure that KHS is able to sustain its progressive mission. In the absence of that, the animals would be at risk.