'The best shelter is a caring community'

Cindy DiFazio - Staff Writer

That is the way Donna Huffmaster, speaking on behalf of the Ripley County Humane Society, summed up the society and its hopes for the future. “We want to get residents to support the Humane Society,” Huffmaster explained. She related that she had become involved with the shelter’s work several years ago, and that while it has made giant strides in care and adoption procedures, there is much more to be accomplished.

The shelter now offers a monthly low cost spay/neuter clinic. The clinic is offered through a partnership between the shelter and People Assisting Animals in Need (PAAIN). PAAIN assists shelters in Ripley as well as Decatur and Franklin Counties. The program is run by volunteers and the costs are minimal (free vouchers for dogs can be discussed):
* Any dog - $50
* Male cat - $25
* Female cat - $40

Rabies shots are given during the spay/neuter clinic at a cost of $8, and the animals return home fully vetted.

Animals are transported in air-conditioned/heated comfort to a state-of-the-art clinic in Bloomington for the procedure. Volunteers coordinate the trip and accompany the animals. Huffmaster shared, “This is a passion for those involved.”

Upcoming spay/neuter clinic dates are February 26, March 26 and April 23, and those wanting to participate, volunteer or just get more information can call 812-932-3647.

Huffmaster suggested that if Ripley County residents with free-roaming cats would get just one spayed or neutered per month, the cat population could be controlled. She recommended, “It’s the start of correcting the problem.”

The Ripley County Humane Society and PAAIN also participate in many innovative programs for dogs.
Because of mandatory spay/neuter laws in other parts of the country, dogs that would languish in a local shelter are in great demand elsewhere. In 2006, 75 dogs were transported from here to the East Coast. An alliance with an organization named Adopt A Lab, running under the banner Helpfido.org, allows the shelter to charge an adoption fee to defray transport and vet costs. The adoptive “parents” of a puppy named Logan wrote, “He is absolutely great...You have made my family and I extremely happy and God bless you for everything you do to place these animals with loving families.”

Another behind-the-scenes service provided by the shelter is mandatory temperament testing for dogs. Volunteer trainers, Jan Barnes and Diane Chapman perform the testing, teach basic obedience and match dogs with appropriate adoptive homes.

Physical improvements made to the facility in 2006 were:
* Interior renovations including a new lobby and laundry area.
* A puppy room to keep young animals isolated from the adult population.
* Central air-conditioning (thanks to a PAAIN volunteer’s generosity).
* A wider driveway with new gravel.
* The hiring of weekend manager, Sandy Hollowell.
* Barn renovations adding electricity and insulation so that animals can be temporarily housed in a climate-controlled fully enclosed area.

The Ripley County Humane Society is doing an outstanding job of utilizing its resources to reach its goal of being recognized as a “model” shelter. Yet, sometimes they feel as under-appreciated as some of the four-legged creatures they take in.

Fully 72% of owner-surrendered and stray animals helped by the shelter last year were Ripley County animals. Another 13% were brought to the shelter by the Ripley County Dog Warden. Still, they receive no county funding. All of their monies come from the private sector.

In 2006, the Ripley County Humane Society was awarded the following grants:
* $1,000.00 from the PETCO Foundation.
* $50,000.00 from the Rising Sun Regional Foundation.
* $5,000.00 from PetSmart Charities.

PAAIN donated close to $20,000 in 2006 through cash donations and other support.
Because of the historically high number of animals served from Versailles and Osgood, in 2007, the society intends to seek grant funds from the Tyson Foundation (Versailles) as well as the Reynolds Foundation (Osgood). They will also apply to PETCO, Two Mauds, the Ripley County Community Foundation and the Meacham foundations.

Some of this year’s dreams include:
* New indoor/outdoor dog facility.
* Surgical suite.
* New rear shelter doors.
* Renovated covered training/exercise area.
* New grooming/storage area.
Now you may ask, “What can I do for the Ripley County Humane Society?”

Here’s a list:
* Donate supplies or cash
* Volunteer
* Join up - Individual memberships are just $10 per year. Family memberships are $25.
* Call the shelter at 689-3773 and ask how you can help.
As Donna Huffmaster said, “The best shelter is a caring community.”





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