Representatives from the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri informed the Jackson Mayor and Board of Aldermen during study session Dec. 6 that the fee for their services was going to increase this year, even though they are taking in fewer animals. (The organization changed its name to Southeast Missouri Pets after this meeting.)
“We are on purpose going down with our intakes,” said Charlotte Craig, president of the Board of Directors of the Humane Society. She appeared with Executive Director Tracy Poston. Craig said the trend in their business is to focus on prevention, so fewer animals are turned. “We often say we’d like to be put out of business and not take any animals in,” Craig said. “Back in the day — and I’ve been around 41 years with this business — we’d take in five and maybe six thousand animals a year.”
Now, people are counseled as to why they want to turn in their animal. If it’s a matter of lack of food, they are tapped into a food bank. If it’s medical care they need, the Humane Society tries to find a way to pay for it. “And that has made an impact on our intakes,” Craig said.
In addition, a donor pays to have animals spayed and neutered. The Humane Society hands out 300 or more vouchers a year to animal owners to have their animals spayed on the annual “Spay Day.” “That has made a tremendous impact on the numbers of animals that exist in our county,” Craig said.
Also making an impact is a city ordinance that says the first time a stray animal is taken to the Humane Society, it is microchipped. The second time it is taken in, the animal is spayed or neutered before it goes out.
“I am telling you this so you understand that we are on purpose working to bring those numbers down,” Craig explained.
The number of animals that came into the Humane Society from Jackson residents and from the Jackson animal control officer was 156 last year, out of a total of 2,300 animal intakes.
The fee is no longer based upon cost per animal. “It’s too much for anybody,” Craig said.
Because the 156 animals from Jackson is 7% of all the animals taken in, they considered charging Jackson 7% of the annual operating budget of the Humane Society, which was $745,000. That figure also was deemed to be too high a fee.
So the Humane Society settled on an increase of only 10% over last year’s contract, bringing the fee to just over $31,000, an increase of $2,800.
“I know that sounds like a lot of money to you all,” Craig said, “But I want you to think about if we weren’t there. It’s the 156 animals this past year — but it’s not just 156 animals next year. It could be 300 animals next year if we weren’t there. It would be increasing every year.” For example, a female cat can get pregnant as soon as she delivers one litter of kittens, so she can have three litters a year, Craig explained. “If we weren’t there, where would the animals go?”
Even with the 10% increase, Craig said, “I think it’s still a bargain. Plus, most of our animals are getting adopted now. We’re no-kill. Our save rate for dogs is 94%. Ninety percent is considered no-kill. And we’re kissing 90% for cats. I’m really delighted with that. I remember when it was just awful.”
None of the fee charged the City of Jackson is going toward funding the Humane Society’s new building. “It’s for operations,” Craig said.
The effort to become no-kill has been going on for 10 years, since Poston became executive director. When she came on board, the save rate was only 28% for cats and 48% for dogs, Poston said.
The Humane Society of Southeast Missouri receives no funding from the State or from the National Humane Society. All funding is raised locally. “Our income is one chocolate chip cookie at a time,” Craig quipped.
Alderman Paul Sander said the fact that the Humane Society was striving to become a no-kill facility was worth more than the 10% increase in the fee.