By AMANDA KIMBLE
ERATH COUNTY (December 16, 2016) – With the holiday quickly approaching, boys and girls – and even adults – have their hearts set on a new pet, perfectly positioned underneath the Christmas tree with a bright red bow around its neck.
The wish list of Diane McCoy, executive director of Erath County Human Society (ECHS), includes the hope that the puppies checked off of Santa’s list find a forever home.
“We are getting a lot of calls right now from people looking for puppies for Christmas,” she said.
There are stories of families being delivered a new pet during the holiday season that include a happy ending, the perfect companion. For other families, the once cute and cuddly puppy grows into a fur beast threatening to rip the family apart.
“Around February and March, when the puppies aren’t so cute anymore, some shelters will see an increase in intake,” McCoy said. “Having a pet really is a lifelong commitment and not one every family can make.”
McCoy said some surrenders are justifiable and those forced to give up their pets aren’t chastised, but an unnecessary surge in population will only add to growing funding concerns for ECHS. Intake at the shelter has taken an apparent upturn since nonprofit organization became no-kill shelter last year, so have its expenses.
“Our rate of intake has increased 434 percent,” McCoy said.
ECHS took in 2,007 new animals last year, with an average of 167 animals per month. The monthly average for the number of in-house animals was 217, according to McCoy.
As of December 11, intake for 2016 had increased to 2,218 new animals, with an increased average monthly intake of 185 and increased number of in-house animals of 247 per month.
The change to no-kill shelter status was made in direct response to community members who asked for the facility, which previously euthanized a large number of cats and dogs annually, to stop killing healthy animals.
“We have seen an enormous increase, but our funding hasn’t increased in years,” McCoy said. “Our monthly allocations (from the city and county), do not come close to covering our monthly expenses.”
More animals also mean a greater risk of disease. So, ECHS began administering parvo and distemper vaccines to dogs several months ago and more recently started vaccinating cats.
“In the past, no vaccines were given at the shelter,” McCoy said, adding when puppies are brought into the shelter, they are given the first in a series of three parvo vaccinations and older dogs are given a booster shot. “Once there is parvo on the grounds, it’s impossible to get rid of, especially considering the number of uncared for animals and strays coming in.”
If an animal hasn’t been administered a complete series of vaccinations when it is adopted, ECHS provides information on low-cost vaccination clinics and offers to administer the shots if the serum is purchased by the pet owner.
“It’s a benefit for the health of the animals at the shelter, but also benefits the community as a whole,” McCoy said. “The more vaccines that are administered, the fewer cases of infection.”
McCoy said the shelter has also implemented the use of a high-grade disinfectant inside of the shelter, which costs $50 per gallon. Staffers use the disinfectant throughout the facility two to three times each day.
“That really adds up,” she said.
Other cost increases are attributed to certain tests administered on-site, more trips to seek veterinary care and increase from a single full-time employee to include three part-time shelter workers.
“Our bank account is headed in the wrong direction,” McCoy said.
To help offset costs at the shelter, ECHS is calling on public support. McCoy said thanks to the generous support of Walmart, there is rarely a need for dog food. She also said community members also supply rags and towels, and a recent Facebook appeal led to some financial contributions, but funding is a growing and constant concern.”
“We need help,” she said. “This time of year, a lot of people and organizations are asking for help, and we find ourselves extending our paws to the mix.”
McCoy said all monetary donations are welcomed and appreciated.
“We have more than 6,000 Facebook followers on the Erath County Humane Society page, and if each gave just $1 per month, or a one-time donation of $5 to $10, we could breathe much easier,” she said. “We are a 501(c)3 charitable organization, so donations are tax deductible.”
Online contributions can be made via Paypal or donations can be mailed to Erath County Human Society at P.O. Box 2006, Stephenville, Texas 76401.
Community members who are searching for the perfect gift for animal lovers on their shopping lists are asked to consider making an honorary gift in the name of those friends and loved ones.
ECHS is located at 891 East Road in Stephenville. For more information about lending a hand through donations or by volunteering your time, call McCoy at 254-965-3247.