Humane Society asks local governments for more funding

Thursday, September 19, 2013
Boomer, an adult male Boxer, is up for adoption at the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri. (Laura Simon)

About 4,000 of them each year pass through the doors. Breeds and mixes of all shapes, sizes, colors and temperaments. Dogs and cats make up most of the population, but there are other animals, too -- everything from iguanas to potbellied pigs.

"It really is a community asset," said Charlotte Craig, who retired from her job last year as the longtime director of Cape Girardeau County's Public Health Center to become a full-time volunteer at the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri.

Craig calls the Humane Society in Cape Girardeau "a part of the public works infrastructure."

"It's more than a warm, fuzzy place where you go to get a kitten or a cat," she said. "Think about the number of animals we take in yearly, and if those animals were loose, and not taken care of."

Craig, along with Humane Society director Kelly Goff, have recently been paying visits to local governments, an annual activity, asking for a little more in donations each year, a "fair share" for the costs the Humane Society incurs for taking in the area's abandoned, lost and stray animals. The amounts requested from each government, or jurisdiction, is based on the number of animals from each city or county the Humane Society takes in on an annual basis. The jurisdiction is asked to pay for half the costs for each animal -- a number that includes all costs from food to bleach to staff pay.

Bob Hoffman moves Butch from quarantine to a kennel, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, at the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri. Butch was picked up by the Cape Girardeau County Sheriffs Department animal control and brought to the shelter on Tuesday. (Laura Simon)

The actual cost per animal is $98.98, up from just more than $90 last year. Rising costs associated with the economy are to blame, say staff -- electricity for the facility costs more, as does pet food, for example. Estimated costs for the local Humane Society this year are 370,000 this year. What is not paid for by local governments comes from individual and group donations, fundraisers and grants.

In August and September, Craig and Goff appeared before the Cape Girardeau City Council and the Cape Girardeau County Commission. The city and county are included among jurisdictions the Humane Society is trying to bring closer to paying their "fair share."

In 2012, the city of Cape Girardeau paid $43,800, an increase from the year before, but the amount still did not meet the Humane Society's "fair share" amount of $67,265. This year the city increased the funding again to $47,000. City officials said had Craig and Goff come at an earlier time, meaning before the year's budget was passed in July, there would have been a chance the city could have considered upping the amount even more.

'Looking up'

Craig said although some jurisdictions aren't meeting the Humane Society's requests, asking for "incremental steps toward getting there" is working, and working well.

"Things are looking up," she said. "We are seeing more cooperation."

Cape Girardeau County has also been asked to step up its contribution this year, to $30,167. In 2012, the county paid $21,000, or about 35 percent of the actual cost of the Humane Society's services for animals that came from the county. County officials will make a decision on the amount going to the Humane Society this year as the end of the county's fiscal year approaches in a few months.

The city of Jackson is currently the only jurisdiction paying half the actual costs of services for animals taken care of by the Humane Society. The Humane Society also brings in a small amount from jurisdictions smaller than Cape Girardeau and Jackson; it asks that those "just pay what they can, even if it's $500 per year," Craig said.

Among the jurisdictions are small towns throughout Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois.

The contracted service amounts with jurisdictions are just part of the picture.

An everyday, real problem that affects the services of the Humane Society, according to Craig, is that owners who surrender animals don't offer to make a donation, in any amount, to help pay for an animal's care.

"The general public could ante up, and they need to be aware of that. That would really make a difference," she said.

In 2012, the Humane Society took in 3,738 animals. That number was down slightly from 2011.

About 60 percent of the animals are adopted or sent to rescue centers elsewhere. The remainder have to be euthanized. Craig said the Humane Society's rate of placement versus euthanization is good.

Numbers of animals received by the Humane Society are again on track to be near 4,000 this year. In July, 460 were turned in. In August, there were 410. In September so far, there have been 161.

The Humane Society is an "open facility," meaning no animals are turned away.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

2536 Boutin Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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