HUSA tours animal shelter

Published 10:26 am Friday, June 29, 2012

TOURING THE LOCAL ANIMAL SHELTER on Wednesday morning were, from left to right, front row: Carol Lewis, secretary of the local Humane Society, Bainbridge Animal Shelter Director Beth Eck, Jessica DuBois, Georgia director for the Humane Society of the United States, Sarah Matisak, coordinator of Shelter Services for the HUSA and local animal advocate Marjean Boyd; back row: local Humane Society board members Liz Widener, Carol Lewis, Chuck Lewis and Richard King.

Representatives from the Humane Society of the United States visited the Bainbridge Animal Shelter on Wednesday to learn more about the shelter’s operations.

The Bainbridge Animal Shelter is run by the Bainbridge-Decatur County Humane Society. Dogs, cats and other domestic pets are brought to the shelter from not only Bainbridge and Decatur County, but also from other surrounding counties which don’t have a shelter.

The Humane Society of the United States (HUSA) officials visited Bainbridge as part of a tour of shelters around the state. On its Web site, the national organization says it provides free information and guidance to local shelters who need help with animal care issues. It also refers shelters to independent resources and data that can help them.

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The stated goal of the tour is to “increase adoptions and positive outcomes for healthy and treatable animals in communities and advance the field of animal sheltering.”

Bainbridge Animal Shelter Director Beth Eck and local Humane Society board members led the HUSA officials on a tour of the shelter, which is located on Cox Avenue, near the city’s sport park.

One of the issues identified by those who are familiar with the Bainbridge shelter is its need for a separate building to handle intake of new animals that come in every week. Currently, they are held in the same area as animals that are being quarantined out of precaution, which is not ideal. There are also no sound-insulated walls between the rooms where dogs and cats are kept, which can be visibly upsetting for some new arrivals.

On the plus side, shelter director Beth Eck said she was happy about the new puppy play area that has been built behind the shelter. The animals are rotated between indoor and outdoor areas to get them some sunshine and exercise, Eck said.

But the Bainbridge shelter, which actually consists of two buildings constructed by the City of Bainbridge, is cramped for space due to the number of animals brought in by animal control officers and citizens.

A bathroom had been converted into a nursery for a mother cat and its newborn kittens, while a lab/medicine room fits into a room not much larger than a closet.

The Bainbridge-Decatur County Humane Society’s annual budget is as follows: it gets about $80,000 from the Bainbridge City Council and $40,000 from Decatur County Commissioners. The rest of its approximately $230,000 annual budget comes from regular fundraising events and patron donations, adoption fees and donations the shelter asks for when animals are relinquished by their owners.