How to stop the bleeding at FHS

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, September 15, 2016

To the editor: 

I would like to add a few thoughts to Mr. Verrecchio’s economic analysis found in the August 11 Tryon Daily Bulletin as to why the Foothills Humane Society is, as he says, “bleeding deep red.”

As recent as about six years ago, the shelter’s endowment fund was worth right around $1,000,000 and its earnings, along with the other means of revenue, would usually cover the shelter’s expenses. Obviously, if the shelter is bleeding red, two questions must be asked: 1) how much is left of the endowment fund and 2) why did the shelter recently change its mission to a no-kill. 

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The answer to the first question is difficult to ascertain from the most recent IRS Form 990 but should be made public.

The answer to the second question to my knowledge has also never been forthcoming from the shelter. I’m sure the current policy makers did it with good intentions, but how can you justify keeping animals alive when they are so sick/diseased or so vicious that no one will adopt them? And what about those animals that may be physically healthy but have been at the shelter so long that they have developed psychotic issues that also precludes them from being adoptable? In these cases, perhaps euthanasia is the best course of action, which in itself is a humane act because in the animal world, a gentle death is not the worst thing. This in turn would go a long way in helping the bottom line.

There are perhaps other reasons for the shelter’s financial troubles.

Why has the shelter not received a raise from Polk County for the past five years to at least get from them what it costs the shelter to keep the county’s animals? There was a time when the shelter could go to the county during budget time, state the shelter’s needs by presenting irrefutable data as to what it costs to care for the county’s animals, and ultimately would get significant raises.

Being a privately owned shelter provides it with much leverage when it comes to negotiations with the county, as it would cost the county millions to build and run its own shelter.

To accept the county only paying 18 percent of the shelter’s annual income when the county’s dogs and cats account for an overwhelming majority of the shelter’s intake is certainly not a good business decision and makes for a bad economic outcome. 

This brings me to my last point. Just because the shelter is a non-profit entity doesn’t mean it can’t be run similar to a for profit business using sound business principles to produce a balanced P&L. This will only occur when there is the proper mix of experienced business people making sound and at times hard decisions, the hiring of an experienced fund raiser, all in unity with those as Mr. Verrecchio correctly said are “driven by the heart.”

The shelter in the past had a track record of doing just that, which leads me to believe it can be done again. Otherwise the bleeding will continue.

~ Robert Then, Campobello, S.C.