Humane Society has plan to survive

Appointments to drop off felines will continue

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Humane Society for Southwest Washington

• For an appointment to drop off a cat or a kitten, call the receiving department at 360-213-2621, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

• For other matters, call 360-693-4746 or visit http://southwesthumane.org. The Humane Society is at 1100 N.E. 192nd Ave.

Cats are still being accepted by appointment only at the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, the nonprofit organization's interim executive director told the Vancouver City Council on Monday.

The emergency measure was put in place over the summer at the height of kitten season, but controlling the number of kittens and cats that come to the shelter — which can be as many as 30 to 40 a day between June and October — has led to better care for the animals and the policy will continue, Stacey Waddell said.

Waddell, along with Tom Anderson and Bill Fulk, president and treasurer of the group's board of directors, gave an update to the city council that included the organization's plan for survival in light of a reduction in donations.

The Humane Society takes in between 10,000 and 12,500 animals a year. Waddell said there's been encouraging numbers with regard to the animals that survive the shelter experience. She cited a 90 percent survival rate for dogs, up from 86 percent in 2011, and a 72 percent survival rate for cats, up from 60 percent last year.

Public money

Unlike many other counties, Clark does not operate a municipal shelter. Instead, the county and local cities contract with the Humane Society, paying a fee for each stray that winds up at the east Vancouver facility and goes unclaimed after 72 hours.

Fees increased this year; the county and Vancouver went from paying $69.76 per stray to $120. Smaller cities pay less.

In 2013, the fee will increase by $12.50, plus the increase in the consumer price index. That rate of increase will repeat yearly until the fee hits $170.

About 60 percent of the animals that end up at the Humane Society are strays brought in by Clark County Animal Control or members of the public, and the rest are owner-surrendered. Usually, the owner has had to move to a residence that doesn't accept animals or the owner can no longer afford to care for the animal.

Sixty percent of animals brought to the Humane Society are cats, 35 percent

are dogs and the rest are either birds, rabbits or small mammals.

There's not a threat of overpopulation with dogs as there is with cats, Waddell said.

During kitten season, when the cat population essentially doubles, cats can get sick with upper respiratory infections and the illness can spread.

"We're not doing them any favor by bringing them into the shelter if we can't adequately care for them," she said. When people call to make an appointment, she said they will be encouraged to keep kittens until they are approximately 3 pounds and ready for adoption. She said staff will try to schedule a drop-off time within two weeks.

In addition to better controlling the feline population, she told the council, the group needs to increase public awareness of adoption, donation and volunteer opportunities. The Humane Society has more than 400 volunteers, including 80 foster families. She's hoping more people will sign up to take temporary care of fragile animals, such as newborn kittens, when owners cannot.

A recent "Big and Beautiful" offer that discounted adoption fees for fat cats was part of the adoption awareness campaign.

She said the organization also plans to keep advertising its spay-and-neuter clinic, in which low-income families pay only $10 for a pet to be fixed. The surgeries cost about $60 each, Waddell said. Last year more than 1,000 surgeries were performed, and she hopes that number will hit 1,500 this year.

Fundraising

On Saturday, the organization hosted its annual benefit dinner and auction. The event at Hilton Vancouver Washington raised approximately $430,000, higher than the initial estimate of $415,000 but short of 2011's total of $500,000.

In 2010, the event raised nearly $1.2 million, including a $400,000 match from local business owners.

Community donations have always been generous, Fulk said, but the gap has been widening every year since the recession.

The organization's expenses are approximately $2.8 million a year. The adoption fees — kept low to encourage people to take home animals — and fees charged to the county and cities cover less than 50 percent of those costs. The group tries to raise $1.5 million a year and also earns money from profits at two Vancouver thrift stores, ReTails. The stores are at 3200 N.E. 52nd St. and 13898 N.E. 28th St.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.