The Bond County Humane Society is outgrowing its present location, and the members of the group are dreaming big about the future of the organization.
The current goal is to build a new facility to house both cats and dogs, according to Rachel Hundsdorfer, president of the organization.
A donation of 2.1 acres of land on South Elm Street in Greenville is the first step in securing a new building for the group.
"One of our members, Mary Kasmark, donated the land for us to build a new shelter," said Hundsdorfer. "We're thrilled about it, but we still have a long way to go before our dream becomes a reality."
About three acres of land on West Ayers Road was donated for the same purpose, although plans are now to sell that property. Hundsdorfer said she believes the land on Elm Street is a better fit with the organization's goals.
It's closer to the volunteers who commit their time to the organization, as well as more centrally located for adopters to find.
The current location of the humane society at 1403 S. Fourth Street wasn't designed to become an animal shelter, Hundsdorfer said.
"We do what we can with the space we have now, but we're hoping to expand and grow," she said. "A bigger building would give us the space to do that."
A New Home
An artist's sketch taped to the wall at the society is what the organization would build if its funding weren't limited, Hundsdorfer said. The sketch is of a 5,500 square foot building with special holding rooms for incoming animals, an air handling system, a laundry facility, three community cat rooms and 10 indoor/outdoor dog runs. "This is what we would have if we could, but these plans have to be scaled back a lot before we can move forward," she said. "I wish we were further along than what we are, but we'll get there." Once the conceptual design has been whittled down, the next step will be to develop a floor plan. The Bond County Humane Society intends to use a business known as Houndquarters to design the floor plan. Kennel construction involves more than just building a new structure. Factors to be weighed are the need for a foundation that allows for excellent drainage, a good ventilation system in the kennel and commercial areas, and the ability of the construction materials to withstand corrosive liquids like chemical cleaners and urine. "There are a lot of specific things that we need to include and this organization, Houndquarters, specializes in building these kinds of buildings," Hundsdorfer said.
Cost is the biggest hurdle facing the Bond County Humane Society. "We're still trying to seek funds to move forward with some of these plans, and it can be difficult," she said. "A lot of the donations we receive are used to provide for the care of animals and the day-to-day operations," Hundsdorfer said. "We have been socking money and donations away when and where we can. Some of the money we receive is earmarked specifically for a new building. We've also been saving items like large office furniture and some stainless steel isolation units that we'd be able to use in a bigger place. We're just running out of room." The BCHS is a non-profit organization and it gets all of its funding through donations, fundraisers and grant money. It does not receive money from the city, county or state.
Growing And Growing
The humane society was founded in 2003 by Rachel and Dennis Hundsdorfer along with Doris Rench. "We really just came together as a group of concerned citizens who wanted to do something about the stray and homeless animals in Bond County," Hundsdorfer said. The idea was formed after the Hundsdorfers rescued a dog they found on Woburn Road. "We took him in and named him Chance," she said. "He's still part of our family. Our experience with him led us to believe that we could help more animals." Since that time, the BCHS has grown by leaps and bounds to save the county's animal population from euthanasia. In 2008, the shelter took in 92 cats and has adopted 70 of those animals into homes. The group also took in 48 dogs with all but one of those being adopted by a family. "The one dog that didn't make it to a home died on the operating table before he had a chance," said Hundsdorfer. Currently the facility can only take in cats. It rents a facility for the dogs it rescues.
The pets are adopted to families who fill out a questionnaire that is evaluated by the staff. References also are required of each adopter. "We're hoping to match the family to the pet so that we end up with a good fit," Hundsdorfer said. "We want everyone to be happy - the family and the pet. If we have a dog that needs a fence, then we wait for a family with a fence. We make sure friendly dogs with the right temperament go to those families with young children." The BCHS does require its adopters to license the pet and maintain proper veterinarian care. "We also make sure that the dog or cat is going to live in the residence with the family," Hundsdorfer said. "We believe that animals are part of the family and should be treated like it. We're not going to adopt an animal to someone who is going to tie it up to a tree for its entire life. That's not in keeping with our goal." Many of the pet placements are made through the Internet on petfinder.com. Other animals are placed on adoption days at Petsmart in Glen Carbon and Petco in Fairview Heights. All pets that are adopted from the society are in good health, up-to-date on their vaccinations and medications and have been micro-chipped.
All of the work at the humane society is done by volunteers. "We have very dedicated volunteers," Hundsdorfer said. "Some put in a lot of hours and others do a few hours a week. We've got some volunteers with 600 hours in already. We need all of the help, so we're glad to work around schedules." Hundsdorfer estimates there are about 50 to 60 volunteers at the organization. "We started off with just a handful of people," she said. The volunteers do everything from socializing the cats, cleaning cages, manning adoption booths at the pet stores, administering medication and answering the phones. Some volunteers have more authority than others to do things like passing out medication to the animals or dealing with a problem that arises. "We call them lead volunteers," she said. 'Only they can administer medicine because we want to make sure that doesn't get messed up. We have all types of volunteers including some community service. That's why we need to have someone with authority." Animals need to be fed and taken care of each and every day of the year, Hundsdorfer said. "Our volunteers are so important because these animals depend on us for everything," she said. "They don't know if it's icy outside or if it's a holiday. They still need care. They still need food and medicine." For some of the volunteers, it's meant taking home a sick animal or coming into the shelter in the middle of the night. "We're not open 24 hours a day, like some people think, but we do what we have to when there is a need," she said. Hundsdorfer said once a new building is constructed the society hopes to have a full-time staff person. "Ideally what we need is one full-time and one part-time person," she said. "But again, that's looking far into the future."
Missions Still The Same
A new building can only help the society fulfill its original missions. "We started the humane society to provide temporary housing for the stray and homeless pet population in Bond County until loving homes can be found for them," she said. "And with that, we want to stop the pet overpopulation problem." Adoption is one way to help the overpopulation problem, but that is simply not enough, Hundsdorfer said. The spay and neuter program has been developed to help combat the issue. "We can't adopt our way out of the pet overpopulation problem," she said. Grant funding has helped to provide a low cost option for animal owners to spay and neuter their pets. "We work very hard to get the funding we need to help this problem," she said. "We've applied for every kind of grant from those for small dogs, those for large dogs, low income, you name it," she said. "In the last five years, we've received at least $20,000 that we've used toward that goal." The spay/neuter program started small in 2003 and has continued to grow. The society has been responsible for the spaying or neutering of 388 pets in 2008, she said. "It's been our biggest year by far," she said.
Education is the best possible way to make an impact on the pet overpopulation problem in the United States and in Bond County, Hundsdorfer said. A new building would have a community room where educational classes can be held. "We already do those types of things, where we're trying to get the message out about proper animal care," she said. "We've had group interested in giving pet first-aid classes that we'll invite to come to the new facility." Responsible pet ownership includes spaying or neutering, according to Hundsdorfer. "When we go into the classrooms and we hear stories about how the children's cats just had kittens, we cringe a little," she said. "We know that by educating children about the positives of spaying and neutering that they will many times teach their parents. We want to stop the problem at the root of it."
Valentine's Day Special At BCHS
The Bond County Humane Society will be offering a one-time Valentine's Day special on adult cats. Volunteer Nancy Machmer said the idea came about because the adult population of cats at the shelter has grown to 32. "It's never a problem adopting kittens out," she said. "Everyone wants a new kitten, so we end up with more adult cats." From February 9-13, the BCHS will offer an adult cat at half off the adoption price. It will cost just $45 for a cat rather than the full price of $90. Each cat is healthy and is up-to-date on all of its vaccinations. It has been spayed or neutered and micro-chipped. Adult cats are those that are just one year old or more, according to society president Rachel Hundsdorfer. "These are all extremely nice cats and the only thing that's kept them from being adopted is that they are adults," she said. "By no means are these cats old. None of them are more than five years old, and cats can live for up to 20 years." For more information, contact the society at 664-4068.
The Greenville Advocate January 29, 2009 page 1+