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Humane Society is going to the dogs, cats

SCHUYLER COUNTY—On Aug. 1, the Schuyler County Humane Society officially took over  management of the animal shelter for dogs on Van Zandt Hollow Road. This  marks the beginning of a transition from being mostly a feline rescue  organization to one that will eventually care for both dogs and cats in a new modern facility.
“Discussions have been ongoing for several months, escalating within the last two,” explains Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn.  “The County considered proposals from  the Friends of Schuyler County Animal Shelter (FOSCAS) and the Schuyler County Humane Society.  The Legislature deemed the  Humane Society to have a greater capacity for short term operations as well as  the capacity to operate a centralized shelter for cats and dogs.”
Formerly managed by the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Department, the “dog pound” was not the best use of law-enforcement resources, O’Hearn says. FOSCAS was formed in 2004 to assist the Sheriff’s Department in the operation of the shelter.  The organization had a one-year trial agreement with Schuyler County to manage the facility.
But by the end of that time, there was some hesitation in continuing the agreement, says Schuyler County Sheriff Bill Yessman.  And then, “The Humane Society came forward with a very solid plan to permanently take over the shelter, and I think it was in the best interest of the county to go with the Humane Society at this point,” Yessman says.
This plan “Will save the county about $50,000 per year in operating costs for the shelter,” O’Hearn says.  The Humane Society currently receives an allocation of $8,000 from the county for their spay/neuter program, but apart from that, the group will eventually assume the complete operation and full responsibility for the shelter.  In an interim period, expected to last until the end of 2010 when the planned new facility will be up and running, the county will continue to pay the costs of maintaining the building, and the humane society will take over all operating costs, including animal care personnel.
“Our objective as a humane society has always been to provide care and shelter for dogs and cats for this community,” says Georgie Taylor, president of the humane society.  “By partnering with the county, we’re in a position to move forward more quickly than we would otherwise.”
Taylor points to the success of the Humane Society’s spay/neuter program, among other initiatives.  Yessman  also credits  the spay/neuter program with drastically reducing the number of dogs needing to be euthanized.
“Ten years ago or so, there were maybe 100 to 200 dogs euthanized per year. For the last several years, if we euthanized two or three dogs a year, that would have been a lot,” he notes.   “The spay/neuter program, that’s a big part of it, the enforcement of dog licensing laws and other things our animal control officer does also helps,” he says.
For a while last week, the lone occupant of the shelter (because FOSCAS personnel took most of the dogs with them when they turned the shelter over) was Benny, a friendly terrier mix found wandering in Clute Park.  Jackie Pastore, a volunteer for the evening shift at the shelter, said when Benny is officially declared abandoned, he’ll be visiting the vet for shots, neutering, and tests.
After he’s declared healthy and he’s lost his ambition to father more unwanted puppies, Benny will be bathed, groomed and offered for adoption. This is standard procedure, Pastore explains, to ensure a family adopting a shelter pet knows their animal will be healthy and free of parasites.  In many instances, animals are “fostered” with families while awaiting adoption, so these pets may receive additional TLC and socialization.
The Humane Society pays for food, medical expenses and soon will be hiring someone to care for the shelter dogs. However, the lion’s share of operating costs is raised through community fund-raisers like “Cans for Cats,” a dog-wash, other events, and now the “Wags to Riches” thrift shop on Franklin Street.  “That’s done a lot to put us on the map,” Taylor says.
“I hope it becomes very chic for everyone to shop at Wags to Riches.  We’ve already had a wealth of wonderful donations.  In fact, we’re going to have a fashion show this fall where people will be dressed in outfits from Wags to Riches.”
 More fund-raisers are planned, because “We still need a ton of money,” Taylor says.  “There’s no question about that.”  And she adds, people who are able to help with donations to the store, contributions to the humane society, and as volunteers are essential to keep things purring along.  For more information about the Humane Society or to learn more about volunteer opportunities, call Taylor at 607-594-3639.
“My objective is for the Humane Society to be the coolest place to have a volunteer experience,” she says.

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