Animal populations can multiply surprisingly fast without intervention from organizations like Community Humane Shelter of Steuben County (CHS) dedicated to their care. When household pets can produce multiple litters per year with multiple offspring, the number of animals in a community can quickly outpace the number of people who are in a position to offer them a loving home. Add to this dilemma the health concerns for animals that haven’t been fixed, and it’s clear why CHS has kept busy for years.
One of the key programs at CHS is to spay and neuter dogs and cats in the community. For pet owners with financial challenges, they offer a limited number of reduced-rate procedures. For others in the community, the Trap, Neuter, Release program makes sure that stray cats are fixed and returned to the location they were found. Other communities that have successful TNR programs have seen their unhomed or stray animal populations reduced to sustainable amounts which can be adopted by local residents, and CHS is working diligently to make sure Steuben County is at that level in the future.
As an open admission shelter, any Steuben County resident is able to bring his or her dog or cat to the shelter, and CHS is required to accept the animal and take care of its needs while they try to find the pet a new home. Last year, they took in over 2000 animals—almost 1200 of which were cats. In order to accomplish this, CHS actively raises funds through a Casino Night event each year and applies for grant money to support projects like their board development training. “A lot of people are surprised by the number of animals that come through here, and all of them have to be fed, cleaned, medicated, etc. It’s a lot of work,” shared Alisa Mills, CHS Executive Director. Although addressing the animal population of Steuben County is a chronic need, a new building has made a huge difference in the number of volunteers they’re able to utilize for getting the work done. The shelter moved to its new location in 2017, and this was made possible through donations from local community members and a grant from the Steuben County Community Foundation. Alisa shared her appreciation for Steuben County’s support and said, “To build this building debt-free and so quickly—it’s unheard of!”
Another way CHS has increased its impact is through working with other organizations. CHS collaborates with shelter and rescue groups throughout the state to make sure animals are receiving quality care. “There used to be an ‘us versus them’ mentality, but now the goal is above all to get the animal a good home,” shared Alisa. CHS works with local farmers to make sure they have a population of healthy, fixed barn cats. They also collaborate with organizations for volunteer opportunities, such as FIST (SCCF’s youth philanthropy group) and school groups. One unique partnership involves a literacy companionship program to help kids learn to read by reading a book out loud to an animal.
By working with other groups and with the attention of a dedicated board, CHS was able to adopt out 1471 animals last year. Each day, they work to educate people about how animals are healthier and live longer when spayed and neutered. Alisa shared that her favorite part about working at CHS is naturally the animals. “I never know what is going to happen every morning. We see sad things like sick animals, but we also see a lot of happy moments like a child adopting their first pet or an older person who gains a friend. The joy that animals bring everybody, that’s the best part.”