Foothills Humane Society announces new facilities

Published 2:57 pm Friday, April 30, 2010

Foothills Humane Society President Robert Then recently announced the expansion of the Societys animal shelter facilities on Little Mountain Road. The facilities expansion is intended to add capacity and provide better care for the animals. The plan addresses the serious and recurring problem of sick animals housed within the main building infecting the entire shelter population.

We have desperately needed appropriate intake and isolation facilities for the animals coming into our care said Then. We recently completed the Dog House, a six-run dog intake and isolation unit, and it has worked very well in limiting disease and isolating animals from the main shelter building. Foothillss next priority is a similar facility to keep the cats healthy and accommodate more animals. Illness and lack of space are leading causes for euthanizing cats in shelters according to Operations Director Dot Moyer. Stress triggers illness quickly in cats, particularly upper respiratory infections. Keeping them with barking dogs and lots of activity really creates a lot of stress for them. They need a quiet place alone so they dont get sick, or if they do they dont infect the other cats and get better faster so they can find a home.

Moving the intake and isolation cats out of the main shelter building will also make more room for healthy cats. During the busy summer rush, the current shelter cannot accommodate all the incoming cats and they must be euthanized for lack of space. Bottom line is this will save many lives according to Then.

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After working for months on designs and logistics, the $60,000 estimated cost to build the Cat House was prohibitively expensive, and grant funding for the project could not be obtained. Foothills looked for alternatives, said Moyer and realized we already had one on site. The crematorium building is perfect for the Cat House with minor modifications. We have kept the sick cats out there for about six months already, and they are getting well much faster with all the fresh air and quiet. The converted building will accommodate up to 18 intake cat cages and 18 isolation cat cages, freeing up substantial space in the shelter for healthy, adoptable cats.

Then said that the decision to convert the crematorium to the cat intake and isolation facility was made only after extensive analysis. The crematorium has been an important part of the shelters operation since 1994, and required a great deal of community support to build he noted. Sixteen years ago the community really needed a crematorium to provide a dignified end for its companion pets. Now, there are 10 cremation companies in the area which can provide faster service with more options to pet owners, and area vets also arrange for the service for local pet owners. We cannot compete with them, and it is not our business. We all felt the cats need the building far more.

Then also noted that crematorium operation has been losing money, requires substantial staff time and would have to be decommissioned or replaced in the near term. Increasing maintenance expenses and propane costs made the financial decision very obvious after we looked into it said Then, and we can sell it while it still has some value.

The Humane Societys need for the crematorium has been dramatically reduced as its placement success improved over the years. When we needed to euthanize over 1,000 animals a year, having our own crematorium was vital. Fortunately, community awareness of the adoption option and foster and rescue programs substantially reduced need for the crematorium said Moyer. In 2009, euthanasias declined 60 percent to 301 animals, and in 2010 so far, only nine dogs and no cats have been euthanized at the shelter. Foothills is working with a highly respected company out of Greenville who will handle the shelters reduced cremation needs. The public can obtain this service thru local veterinary clinics, or Foothills can refer them to a local service.

We are thrilled at how well our new operating structure and programs are working to save the animals says Vice President Judith Kerns. Converting our crematorium to the Cat House is a wonderful new opportunity as we continue to care for abandoned, homeless and abused companion animals of our community.

Foothills projects that the Cat House will open in four to six weeks. Nothing happens at the shelter without the community, according to Then. We are asking concerned citizens who want to save the animals to continue their support. Naming opportunities for these facilities expansion projects are available to those interested in making a donation to the construction expenses.

Foothills Humane Society is a private, North Carolina not for profit corporation, which provides care and finds responsible homes for over 1,500 abandoned, homeless and abused companion animals each year from its open admission shelter facilities at 989 Little Mountain Road in Columbus. It also provides community education, spay neuter assistance and other services to pet owners in Polk County and the upstate South Carolina communities of Landrum, Campobello and Gowansville. The Society depends on tax-deductible contributions and volunteer assistance to ensure No More Homeless Pets in our community.

For more information, or to contribute or volunteer, contact Robert Then, president at 704-863-4444.