The Golden Belt Human Society is unique in that it is both an animal shelter and the pound. In most places, these jobs are separate. That means employees at the shelter have a tough job to do.
“We pick them up, we take care of them, and in many cases, we put them to sleep,” said Gail Broberg, director. “We recommend adopting a shelter dog, rather than purchasing one from a breeder or individual.”
Last year, the shelter adopted out 143 dogs and puppies, and 32 cats and kittens. With Christmas less than a month away, Broberg has some advice for families considering giving the gift of a new family member for the holiday.
“Wait,” she said. “Get them bowls or toys for Christmas, and go together later as a family to pick out the animal.
Bobbie King, the president of the Humane Society’s board of directors, agrees. “Its wonderful to want a pet for your family at Christmas, but it would be really better to wait a few weeks until after Christmas,” she said. The holidays are exciting, with lots of family coming to visit, and all the excitement of presents and new toys. The extra stimulation is enough to frighten a new puppy or kitten coming into a home for the first time. And if young children aren’t closely supervised with the new pet, there is a risk either the pet or the child could get hurt. It’s best to find a time when the excitement level is low, and attention can be focused on the new family member. Because the other sad alternative, which hits shelters often a few months later, is a family who wants to get rid of the new pet. Sometimes, they didn’t realize how much time and attention it would require. Other times, the pet has been teased or hurt, and is now afraid of children, Broberg said.
“We’d like to see people bring their children, or even another pet, to see how they interact,” King said. There is an adoption room on site to make this possible. “If the dog has the option to run up to the kid and lick him all over instead of being scared, it works better.”
The ultimate size of the animal needs to be kept in mind. The shelter finds they have a hard time finding homes for larger breed dogs.
“You need to know what the purpose and the function of the dog is,” Broberg said. “When you know that, their behavior makes a lot more sense.”
In addition to all the pets adopted out last year, there were quite a few who were brought into the pound and later picked up by owners.
“ Our return to owner in the last few years is up compared to what it used to be,” Broberg said. “ I don’t know why, but more people are actually coming to get them. That is a happy thing.”
Here are the numbers. In all, there were 174 dogs and 4 cats and kittens returned to owners. Sadly, 206 dogs and puppies and 144 cats and kittens were euthanized. In all, the shelter cared for 649 animals in a year’s time. And volunteers helped. With only three paid animal control officers, and an average of about 60 to 65 animals at any one time, that means a lot of cleaning and feeding to be done.
“Cleaning is mostly what we do around here,” she said.
They appreciate volunteers whenever they can get them, especially those who can help with these practical concerns. Since many of the animals cared for there are impounded, they do not know if vaccinations are up to date, so if a bite or scratch occurs, there is a rabies watch period to undergo. For that reason, they can’t have inexperienced volunteers take the risk.
“Many people want to have the cute and cuddly experience, or they want to help walk dogs,” Broberg said. “But we only have a couple of dogs at a time that can be walked. It can be done in about five minutes.”
According to Bobbie King, the president of the board of directors for the Golden Belt Humane Society, one very practical need is plumbing services. “We’d love to have some plumbing services to help fix some leaking pipes here,” she said. “We also have to make repairs to our septic tank too.” The building, now 12 years old, is like most buildings, needing routine repairs.
Another way to help is to donate consumables. The shelter is often in need of kitten and puppy food, especially in the spring when most puppies and kittens are born. They could also use dog food and treats (preferably without red dyes), cat food and litter (regular clay) and washable dog toys, blankets and towels. Paper and cleaning products are appreciated too--copier paper, post-it notes, paper towels, bleach, and air freshener (no lysol please). But above all else cash is always in severe shortage.
The Humane Society receives a good portion of its funding from contracts with the city of Great Bend and the county to uphold ordinances concerning animals. The rest comes from donations, which have been down the past few years, King said. She’s hopeful things will look up in the near future.