2023 –The South Pacific County Humane Society (SPCHS) faced many challenges and hurdles this past year, but thanks to our loyal supporters and dedicated staff and volunteers, we have been able to continue our mission to care for homeless cats and dogs. Donations increased in 2023 to the point that we ended the year with a positive bottom line. As always, we are thankful to have such a great team and support of the community.
We had to be creative this year to adjust to the post-Covid reality, but our supporters stepped-up to help make these changes work. In past times, the shelter has been open to the public five days a week. At the height of the pandemic, we developed a service window at the shelter and an on-line adoption system including adoptions by appointment. This change was central to maintaining a safe environment for our staff and volunteers and our shelter animals. In particular, the dogs seemed to respond very positively to the reduced traffic of people through the indoor and outdoor kennel areas. We plan to continue to offer meet and greet with the dogs by appointment only after we receive and review the application. For cats, we’ve found we can be a bit more flexible, offering a visit with the playroom cats if we are not busy with adoptions.
Shelter Animal Count: In 2023, our shelter took in 314 cats and dogs, finding forever homes for 222 and returning 72 to their owners with the remaining balance at the shelter waiting for their forever home or transferred to another agency. Our shelter manager and adoption counselors work with potential adopters helping them find the perfect match.
Details of our 2023 intake and outcome are published and available. As a no-kill shelter, SPCHS had a 95% live release rate in 2023 calculated by dividing live outcomes by total outcomes. As always, our cats and dogs receive their vaccinations including rabies, and are altered and micro-chipped before adoption.
Assistance Programs: In support of our mission to reduce pet overpopulation through community outreach, SPCHS funded reduced cost spay/neuters for 224 household cats and dogs. Thanks to a grant from the “We Love Our Pets” license plate program many of the household spay/neuters were provided with just a $15 co-pay. Our Community Cat Advocate assisted and educated many community members with the trap, neuter/spay, return (TNR) process for community (feral) cats. With her support, 84 community (feral) cats were altered, vaccinated and returned to their colony or location. To make it easier for those wanting to help with community cats, our local Dennis Company Ace has agreed to discount a trap for those showing a voucher from SPCHS. In addition, we have maintained traps and carriers to loan to those who do not want or need to purchase their own trap. Our Pet Food Program assisted many households struggling to provide food for their pets.
Cat and Dog Enrichment: Providing the cats and dogs in our facility the best experience possible until a forever home is found for them is our number one priority.
Our Cat Advocate leads the Cat Cuddler team whose objective is to promote cat adoptions, enrich the shelter environment for cats, and provide promotion and support of cat spay/neuter programs. The Cat Advocate also provides training to new Cat Cuddlers and coordinates support for cat meet and greet appointments. Our Cat Cuddlers provide enrichment and socialization of the cats. Their input on the details about the cats’ personalities help adoption counselors find the right match from prospective adopters. We continued our closed Cat Cuddler Facebook group making it easy for the Cat Cuddlers to communicate pertinent information and to share wonderful photographs to help us find the perfect forever home for each cat.
We are fortunate to have great foster homes for our cats and kittens, including many new foster families who joined our team during the last year. The shelter took-in 115 kittens with many of them requiring to be bottle fed. Until the kittens are old enough to be altered, they are placed in a foster home. Our cat/kitten foster coordinator has done a great job of placing the kittens in the foster homes, tracking their health, vaccinations and spay/neuters all while fostering herself the kittens needing to be bottle fed.
Our Dog Advocate oversees the Dog Walker team leaders bringing the team together for training, scheduling, and sharing of information and experiences with the dogs. The team leaders schedule dog walkers to ensure the dogs are walked every day with most dogs walked two to three times per day. Our Dog Walker team leaders and team members work with professional trainers to assist with dogs that require some extra training and focus to increase their adoptability. We have maintained our closed Dog Walker Facebook group to enhance communication about the dogs and their personalities.
New Floors in the Shelter Front Area: With grant funds provided by the Templin Foundation, we contracted to have new vinyl flooring installed in the front areas of the Shelter, including front lobby, both playrooms, office and med room, back lobby, bathroom and cage room.
Interior Paint: Volunteers painted the walls in the front lobby and the back lobby. We have some work still to do to finish painting the walls and the trim in some of the public areas.
Post-Pandemic’s New Reality: The pandemic continued to impact how we managed staffing, interactions with the public, training volunteers and raising funds. We continued to interact with the public through a service window. Visitors are generally only allowed in the shelter after they submit an adoption application and are approved for adoption after screening. We began the process of gradually increasing public access to the shelter, while ensuring that we maintain a safe environment for staff and volunteers, and, of course, our shelter animals. We continued to conduct our volunteer orientations with on-line application, initial phone call and discussion, and one-on-one training sessions. We had an increase in volunteers in 2023, primarily dog walkers and cat cuddlers, but also including new volunteers for front desk, social media, and electronic record-keeping. We are still looking to expand our team of volunteers, particularly in the areas of cleaning tasks, front desk, fundraising, and management of online activities.
Rising Expenses and Static/Decreased Income: We conducted some successful on-line campaigns including Spring and Fall on-line auctions in 2023. We also received a $8,500 Working Washington Grants Round 5 Program that helped us to maintain staff critical to the care of the cats and dogs at the shelter. Raising funds for the shelter continues to be a challenge and rising staff wages and costs of services and supplies have required us to think creatively about how to conduct our shelter operations.
2024 Priorities: Our priorities for 2024 include creating cash flows to cover program expenses, reducing operational expenses by restructuring daily animal care/cleaning tasks to use volunteers in areas that do not require the expertise of paid staff, recruiting and training volunteers for leadership positions and our cat and dog foster teams, and expanding our fundraising activities and our search for grant funds to help defray costs. As with many non-profit organizations, we have relied heavily on our core group of volunteers to the point that many are suffering from “burnout.” We need to bring in new volunteers to expand our teams, reduce costs, and continue undiminished scope of services the community expects from us.
We are facing a challenging 2024, but with the help of our community, staff, and volunteers, we have hope to overcome those challenges. Thanks to our community for supporting us this year! And, of course, thanks to our loyal and hardworking staff and volunteers. Without them, we could not continue to serve the needs of the animals who come to us for help.
Patti Lee, Board President