Local Humane Society faces possible closure, needs donations

A local nonprofit organization that helps animals and low-income pet owners needs more volunteers and donations, or it might close.

Several board members for the Humane Society of Johnson County have retired recently; the list of volunteers and foster homes for dogs has dwindled; and costs for pet food, cleaning supplies and utilities for the

office and shelter are depleting the funds. Donations and money from fundraisers haven’t been able to keep up, and the organization is in danger of closing, Humane Society president Janet Gorrell said.

The Humane Society is separate from the county-run animal control. While it offers some adoption services for cats and dogs, the main programs focus on helping pet owners take care of their animals. Major programs run by the Humane Society include a low-cost spay and neuter program, pet food pantry where low-income residents can get free pet food, vet assistance for people who can’t afford a pet’s medical bills and a feral cat control program.

The Humane Society has been able to give out more than 40,000 pounds of free pet food to pet owners in need, while the program to spay or neuter feral cats has helped prevent more than 300 cats at animal control from being euthanized due to overcrowding, Gorrell said. Unlike animal control, which is run by the county government, the Humane Society is a nonprofit organization that is funded by grants and donations.

The organization operates on about $150,000 per year.

“We offer a lot to the community, and we need to get more people involved and get more people helping out. If things continue on the path that they’re on and if we don’t grow, that is true, we could have to close down by May,” Gorrell said.

The Humane Society has helped by pulling cats and dogs into its foster program when the shelter is overcrowded and working to get those pets adopted, and the feral cat program has significantly reduced the amount of stray cats running around the county, animal control director Michael Delp said.

That program itself has helped significantly reduce the amount of cats that need to be put to sleep, and in May the animal control center didn’t have to euthanize a single cat for the first time in 10 years. The animal control center gets calls almost daily from people looking for help getting food for their pets, so the pantry has enabled those owners to keep their animals at home and keep them safe and healthy, Delp said.

“The feral cat program has been huge, and they’ve been just a driving force in a sense of keeping this going,” Delp said. “It’s helping us out in that area, and they have opportunities for the public available if they want to get involved in animal welfare.”

The Humane Society needs helps in three ways: more donations, new volunteers and new board members.

One major project the Humane Society needs to complete is installing a new septic system at the

office and shelter at 3827 Graham Road, Franklin. Estimated cost of the system is $80,000, so the organization hopes to find a local contractor who might be willing to do the work for less and cash donations to help pay for the project, Gorrell said. The work is necessary for the group to remain open and continue plans to renovate the former horse barn into a shelter, she said.

The barn isn’t climate-controlled, so the Humane Society currently can’t house dogs waiting for adoption at the Graham Road location. Dogs have to be fostered by a volunteer family while waiting for adoption. The Humane Society also is looking for more people willing to temporarily house animals, Gorrell said.

Board members are needed to help make decisions about how the Humane Society is run and to plan and work on fundraising events. The board needs new members with some business expertise on top of being passionate about animals, and someone with marketing experience would be a great benefit, Gorrell said.

By the numbers

The Humane Society of Johnson County is looking for new volunteers and asking for donations to keep the organization open and operating. Without more help, funding and supplies, the group is at risk of having to close by May.

$150,000: Annual operating budget from grants and donations

$80,000: Estimated cost to replace septic system at shelter

40,000: Pounds of pet food given out

319: Fewer cats euthanized this year due to feral cat program

If you go

Want to help?

Residents who want to volunteer, donate or serve as a board member for the Humane Society of Johnson County can call 535-6626.

Donation drive this weekend.

The Humane Society of Johnson County is hosting a donation drive for people who want to drop off cash or supplies to support the organization.

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Greenwood Middle School and Franklin Middle School parking lots

What: Drive up and drop off donations to help the humane society

Items in need: Cash or gift cards to stores such as Walmart or Target, Iams dry adult or kitten food for shelter cats, other types of dog or cat food for pet food pantry, bleach, trash bags, liquid dish soap, paper towels, printer paper.