Pawsing to rescue animals in need
This is the third in our series The Good You Can Do, a report on volunteer opportunities in Emmet County, in connection Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Jan. 16. If your organization has opportunities for volunteers to get involved, please contact us.
by Amy H. Peterson
The morning volunteer at Emmet County Animal Shelter (ECAS) is a popular individual, director Kristy Henning said.
The shelter tracks the food intake of its resident cats, and takes their food dishes when they settle down for the night.
When the morning person comes in, the rooms start rocking with excited cats ready for breakfast.
The shelter has six rooms for cats, assigning them to a brightly colored room based on personality, health status and other factors.
The ECAS is an all volunteer, no kill shelter. Its mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome pets in need due to neglect, abandonment, abuse or from simply not being wanted.
Henning says this does not include pets from those who are relocating to a home that does not accept pets, nor most owner surrenders.
“If we accepted all of those, we could have 300 cats in here,”?Henning said.
There is no typical way the shelter takes in the animals it cares for.
Sometimes a farmer is aware there is a litter on their property, and when they drive by, they see the mother cat has been run over.
The shelter works with several foster homes for bottle kittens.
The dogs in shelter, at this time, are also in foster homes.
ECAS works hand in hand with other rescue and shelters in the area to help out when and where we are needed.
The need for volunteers
The shelter needs volunteers to cover chores, including scrubbing floors, washing walls, laundering bedding and towels, and other tasks that keep the shelter operational.
“There are tasks you might not think of, too,”?Henning said.
“We need somene to mow the lawn, to help with publicity, if we had some volunteers who would do our fundraisers, graphic designers, grant writers; with someone to work on development projects, our in-shelter volunteers wouldn’t have to divide their focus,”?Henning said.
The shelter has tried various fundraisers; its main source of income is can and bottle deposits. This income is used for food, cleaning supplies, upkeep on the current building, and $1,500-$2,000 in monthly veterinarian bills.
“That is for routine care; if we have a very sick or injured animal, these can become very costly,”?Henning said.
“Without the can and bottle collecting, we wouldn’t be able to go on,”?Henning said.
Another struggle has been finding a person to take photographs of the animals.
“You’d think that would be an easy thing, but it takes a special person to spend the time necessary to capture the personality of each pet,”?Henning said.
With twice daily chores, there is plenty of very necessary volunteer work to be done.
The ECAS also works with the judicial system to provide community service hours for young people who are ordered to serve.
“That is sometimes a quandary, because we couldn’t accommodate someone involved ina violent crime, and while theft can be seen as minor, it’s a breach of trust. If they would steal from the victim of their crime, what’s to stop them from stealing from us?” Henning said.
These relationships with youth ordered to community service have at times turned into something meaningful for the youth and the shelter, Henning said.
The ECAS also accepts a limited number of junior volunteers, youth under the age of 16.
“Junior volunteers schedule times to come in to do chores with an adult present,”?Henning said.
Ages 16 and up can volunteer on their own.
There are various ways animals can be abused and neglected, Henning showed a meme which was circulating on social media with the top photo showing a pet who appeared emaciated from not having enough food to eat, and the bottom photo showing an obese pet. The words said both situations are a form of animal abuse.
Miniature Pinschers (Mini-Pins) Jingles and Paris came in from an abuse case. The small breed has an ideal weight of around 10 pounds. Jingles, even after losing a bit of weight around the neck and shoulders, still weighs 20 pounds. Paris also still sports quite a gut.
Karen and Dennis?Kraft care for Jingles and Paris. The Krafts have been foster parents to 33 dogs in approximately four years, with four foster “failures,”?in which they kept the dogs as their own pets.
For the others, “They still send us photos of the dogs. They get pretty attached,”?Karen Kraft said.
Kraft said, “Kristy [Henning] can be very persuasive in getting us to take foster dogs.”?
Henning said the ECAS?has a primary purpose as a rescue. There are two major differences between shelters and rescue groups. Shelters are usually run and funded by local government. Rescue groups are funded mainly by donations and most of the staff are volunteers. In the case of ECAS, it is all volunteer.
The ideal volunteer is passionate about animals, has a good work ethic to do the chores that need to be done in order to care for them, ais honest and a team player, Henning said.
The ECAS has an application for volunteers.
To become a foster home, the process is a bit more complicated.
So far, Henning said, the foster homes have been people she knows. The foster application process requires detailed information about the other pets in the home, and about the schedule and availability of the adults in the home to ensure the home is the right fit for the foster pet.
“We have several families raising bottle kitten litters, and could use more,”?Henning said.
ECAS?collaborates with NW?Iowa Humane Society on find, spay/neuter, and return operations for stray cats.
“There are those who love and appreciate cats, and those who don’t necessarily,”?Henning said.
“We hope even for those in the latter category, they would appreciate the fact that with the controlled population, they will encounter cats less, while realizing the reality of the natural food chain.
If all the roaming cats are gone, businesses like elevators and grain bins will see their rat and mouse populations soar.
“Cats do serve a purpose,”?Henning said.
To volunteer at the ECAS, call Kristy Henning at 712-209-4288 or visit www.emmetcountyanimalshelter.org/volunteer/