Foothills Humane Society in the business of helping

Published 11:02pm Sunday, February 9, 2014

by Kirk Gollwitzer

Selena Coffey, executive director of the Foothills Humane Society (FHS), has been with the organization for two years and says she believes FHS is not only a non-profit, but a strong business with a vital work product.  FHS began in 1957 as the Polk County Animal Protection Society and wasn’t incorporated until 1989.  The building was built in 1990 and has been a non-profit organization since 1989.

Coffey says they currently have six full-time employees and eight part-time staff members.

“We have 300 plus volunteers and this last year alone we’ve logged 5700 volunteer hours,” said Coffey.   According to Coffey, FHS has an 18-member board.

“Back in 1957 the entire organization operated on a volunteer basis.  It wasn’t up until December 2011, when I came on board, that it became an executive director lead organization,” said Coffey.

“We are very much a business because we have to follow the same guidelines with federal, state and local laws, with regard to employment, labor laws and workers compensation,” said Coffey.

Coffey said that compared to a business that is making a profit, FHS has to be as efficient as possible with much less capital resources than other generic businesses of their size.

From an organizational structure standpoint, David Pritchard is currently the president of FHS and resides on a seven member executive committee which is made up of the president, vice-president, treasurer, recording secretary and the corresponding secretary, who is the person who sends out the tax deductible forms after a donation is received.  Also on the executive committee are two committee members at large.

Coffey said that she reports to the executive committee, and the rest of the eleven other board members serve on a variety of other committees.  Rickey Farlow is the current Vice president and Kathy Toomey, who has been the treasurer for many years is still in that spot today.

Coffey said she finished a draft of her 2013 annual report and last year they performed 1600 animal intakes.  The majority of the intakes were strays, followed by owner surrenders.  As far as the outcomes are concerned, Coffey is pleased with the statistics.

“We have a very high live-release rate (placement rate). We place 98 percent of our animals into homes or into rescues where they are then placed into safe homes as well,” said Coffey.

Coffey said that FHS has a strong feral cat program that works under the belief that attempting to remove feral cats from a geographic area does more harm than good, because national statistics show that the cats tend to return. The trend now for managing feral cats is to employ a program known as TNR (Trap, Neuter and Return).

“We are fortunate in the area where we have the land and colony caretakers of feral cats working closely with our Po’ Kitties program,” said Coffey.

From a budget standpoint, Coffey says it’s difficult to come up with an average cost per animal over time, because it depends so much on the actual animal itself.  Heartworm positive animal and grooming issues can be very expensive to care for over time.  Coffee said that it is possible to calculate an actual number, but other costs are clearly rising.

“Over the last two years our medical expenses have continued to go up, much of the reason is due to heartworms,” said Coffey.  “It’s a very expensive endeavor to bring a heartworm positive dog back to a negative test,” said Coffey.

Contrary to popular belief about county animal shelters, the animals at FHS are under no time limit with regard to euthanization.  “The animals here will be here as long as they need to be in order to find them a home,” said Coffey.  For control reasons Coffey said that in order maintain an efficient status they must work aggressively on adoptions and rescues.

From a business standpoint Coffey said shelters that euthanize have less of a challenge than FHS who must work that much harder in order to place them.

“We consider all of our animals in our shelter the most adoptable,” said Coffey.

Coffey said that she is proud of how much FHS is serving Polk County.

“We are doing so much to serve families and in this small rural shelter in order to  impact not just Polk County but Landrum, Campobello, Gowensville and other towns.  Coffey said that they are seeing success in keeping animal populations under control as they also accept donations of pet food to which they turn back over to the local “Meals on Wheels” for the needy families with companion animals.

To learn more about the business of FHS visit or call 828-863-4444.

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