Karon Johnston, director of operations for the Calhoun County Animal Shelter, checks up on a few of the organization’s adoptable cats. The shelter, which sees more than 3,000 animals each year, is in need of emergency donations. (Anniston Star photo by Stephen Gross)
The animal shelter run by the Calhoun County Humane Society is asking for emergency donations, which it has to do usually a couple times a year, according to a member of its board of directors.
Board President Shelly Hunt said she wishes they didn’t have to ask for help so often.
The shelter, which is always full, generally has about 3,000 animals come through its doors each year, Hunt said. It has contracts with the cities of Anniston and Jacksonville to shelter strays captured there.
The contracts — $3,000 a month for Anniston and $1,416 for Jacksonville — constitute about 15 percent of the shelter’s nearly $350,000 annual expenses. For the past two years, the shelter raised about $200,000 each year and has operated under a deficit budget, Hunt said. It’s a problem that stretches back years. In 2009, the shelter nearly closed when it could no longer meet its expenses. But when its plight was publicized it received an influx of donations that took it through 2009 and 2010, Hunt said.
Aside from the contracts, the shelter’s income is raised through fundraisers, grants, donations and adoption fees, she said. However, the shelter has only about 15 donors who give faithfully every month, Hunt said.
“That is all, in this whole area we serve,” Hunt said. “We make that go as far as we can.”
But the money only stretches so far. When every one of the 3,000 animals makes its way to the shelter’s door, they are vaccinated for parvovirus, often called parvo, and distemper, a common viral infection, to protect the other animals in the shelter. Then, if an animal is found to be adoptable — meaning it is healthy and not aggressive — it is spayed or neutered before adoption.
The contracts from the two cities don’t cover the medical expenses, Hunt said. Neither does the $100 fee charged to adopting families.
That leads to a perpetual problem. The shelter has to send out emergency pleas for donations to just get by.
The shelter is in “desperate need” of leukemia/AIDS tests for its cats, Hunt said in the emailed plea for donations. The shelter tests dogs for heartworms and cats for leukemia and feline AIDS to make sure they are healthy before letting them be adopted.
“We have five cats that have approved applications on them and would be able to go out next week,” Hunt wrote. “But they will need to be tested and we are out.”
The tests cost $406 plus tax for a box of 30, but the cash is just not available, she wrote.
“We have seen a decrease in donations and in adoptions,” said Karon Johnston, the director of the shelter. “That’s the only way we run is on donations.”
Johnston blames the economy, but Hunt said that is only part of it. Hunt believes that people may think the animal shelter is a government-funded organization like Calhoun County Animal Control and don’t realize how heavily it relies on donations. But she’s not sure.
Millie Harris, Anniston city councilwoman and board president of Saving Animals Volunteer Effort, an organization that promotes low-cost spaying and neutering of pets, believes it may be that people just don’t understand the extent of the problem.
Hunt said the stray animal population in Calhoun County will remain constant as long as people do not spay or neuter their pets and the animal shelter will have to keep asking for donations to take care of the unwanted animals.
“It’s directly tied in,” Hunt said. “Until people stop (their pets from) having these litters of kittens and puppies, we’ll always have a plea.”Contact the Animal Shelter at 256-236-1581 or by visiting their website. Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.