Second chances

Features / June 25, 2018

Humane Society of Garland County gives hope to animals

A report by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says that around 6.5 million animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year — about 3.3 million are dogs, and 3.2 million are cats.

The Humane Society of Garland County, with its board of animal lovers, has been instrumental in saving and making a difference in the lives of animals in Hot Springs and throughout Arkansas.

HSGC President Ivy Wood assumed the role of president four years ago when she saw the shelter urgently needed help. She said it was “the absolute best thing” she has ever done.

When she took on the role as president, the shelter was being operated out of a single-wide trailer and the animals had little room to move around.

Since then, through fundraising events, HSGC has been able to build and open up a brand-new center to operate out of and has closed down the trailer for good.

Hot Springs On the Go!, HER magazine’s predecessor, featured 14-year-old Nera, a border collie/chow mix who had lived 11 years of her life at the HSGC after being dropped off and labeled a “stray,” in 2016. Wood said Nera was an extremely sweet dog, but very shy, very timid, because most of her years had been spent in a kennel with very little human contact.

Nera was just one of around 78 dogs being kept at the humane society when Wood took over as president. She said when she first started working with Nera, the dog would “shake like a leaf” whenever a human would approach her.

HSGC and Countryside Animal Hospital teamed up to give Nera a makeover, including complete dental work and bathing and grooming. Just one day after Nera’s makeover story was released in Hot Springs On the Go!, Nera was adopted to a wonderful family, and Wood said she is now doing great.

She added that Countryside Animal Hospital has performed “pet makeovers” on animals in need ever since the magazine story was published.

Two dogs, Bear and Juno, still remain at the shelter from the original group.

“Bear and Juno have managed to live in this facility without getting kennel crazy, which they say so many dogs do when they’re confined in a kennel so many years,” Wood said. “We have so many multiple play yards now, so they don’t just stay in a kennel all day, they’re not just locked and put back in a kennel. I think the playtime has really been the secret to keeping dogs here adoptable over a long period of time.”

Bear and Juno are both looking for good, patient homes to be welcomed into. Wood said they are both sweet, wonderful dogs and they love people, but they do not get along with other dogs, especially male dogs, so a single-dog home is ideal for them.

Ivy Wood

Wood emphasized the importance of adopting animals from a shelter rather than purchasing from a breeder.

“Rescue dogs are normally pretty healthy and they’re usually pretty grateful to be adopted, and there’s so many of them. There’s an overwhelming need for it,” Wood said. “Rescue these dogs. There’s just such a need, and they’re wonderful dogs, and the papers don’t mean a thing.”

Right now there are 53 dogs on site at HSGC and about 12 cats.

Wood said the mission of the HSGC is to save as many dogs and cats “as is reasonable to do so.”

“The neglected animals first, the abused animals, the homeless animals. We also want to be of service to the community. We feel like teaching young people and their parents and everyone else how to handle animals, and the importance of spay and neuter and heartworm treatments, is a really big part of our mission so that we can someday get ahead of the problem, because we have such a huge problem in this county,” she said.

She said HSGC is a no-kill shelter, but the sad reality is that animals that are sick beyond reasonable goodness of life may have to be put down.

“It’s a hard decision. We are a no-kill shelter, but all shelters that claim to be no-kill are not never-kill. We have to look for what’s best for them.”

Of the more than 3 million animals admitted to shelters each year, more than 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters annually, and a large percentage of these are not offspring of homeless “street” animals — these are the puppies and kittens of cherished family pets and even purebreds who have been dumped or abandoned because their owners couldn’t handle the responsibility of another animal or a litter of animals.

Animal shelters are crowded with unwanted pets that, in many cases, are the result of accidental or poorly planned breeding. The majority of these unwanted pets are never adopted.

Spaying/neutering is the only permanent, 100 percent effective method of birth control for dogs and cats. For this reason, every animal at HSGC is spayed or neutered, a cost that is included in their adoption fee. HSGC also offers discount spay/neuter vouchers.

For individuals who aren’t sure whether pet adoption is right for them, or just want to help out an animal but don’t want to commit to adopting it, fostering animals from the HSGC is also an option. Animals may be fostered for as long or short of a time as desired, and there is no fee. Contact the humane society for further details.

As for adoption, there is a $100 adoption fee for dogs and a $60 fee for cats. Individuals interested in adopting must also fill out an application.

Included in the adoption fee are the spay/neuter of the animal, all of their shots, heartworm tests, and the guarantee that the animal is healthy and ready to go to its new home.

The Humane Society of Garland County employee David Johnson works with a beagle mix

Because the HSGC is a nonprofit organization with no government funding, it relies heavily on private donations. Right now, Wood said, the shelter’s most urgent needs are volunteers and funds.

“This has been a very tough winter. There have been so many dogs dumped and abandoned, people who move away and just leave them in their backyard. It’s a challenge because we need more volunteers because we don’t have the money to hire more staff,” Wood said. “Volunteers don’t have to volunteer for a certain amount of time; they can say, ‘I want to come one day a month,’ or one day a week, twice a week, just whenever they want to come. It helps us to know ahead of time if you’re coming, but even if you just show up, we always need the help.”

The shelter’s volunteer coordinator Casey Ollar said volunteer opportunities include socializing and walking with the cats and dogs, cleaning, doing laundry or dishes, and working in the thrift store.

“We always need the help,” she said. “It’s good for the dogs, it’s good for the cats, to have people around. We also have adoption events that people can volunteer for at Petco.”

The HSGC has two main fundraising events per year: Race to the Rescue, held in the spring, and Raise the Roof, held in the fall.

The shelter’s corresponding secretary Betsy Aughenbaugh is instrumental in keeping the shelter’s fundraising events running smoothly. She has also been volunteering at the shelter every Tuesday since she retired.

“When I retired, my brother was volunteering and he said, ‘You need to come out here,’ and I said, ‘I don’t know, because I’ll want to take them all home,’ but it’s not like that because the staff out here loves these animals. The staff is so good with them and they’re happy here, so you don’t feel like you’re rescuing them from somewhere,” Aughenbaugh said. “We’ll walk any dogs that need it, socialize them, get them used to walking on a leash, and just anything in here that needs to be done. Come and try it out!”

The shelter is located at 1249 Ault Loop, off Highway 128 in Lonsdale. Its hours of operation are Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The thrift store is located at 2026 Central Ave., and its hours of operation are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. All proceeds from the thrift store benefit the animals.

Lindsey Wells

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