Clogged drains, mold and cracked floors compromise more than disease control for the animals and staff at the Lawrence Humane Society. Lack of funding is both the cause and effect of health hazards at the non-profit organization. Dori Villalon, Executive Director of LHS, says the health hazards result in increased risk of illness, extra work for employees, slows adoption processes and costs the facility money.
The building, parts of which are more than 50 years old, runs a 24-hour emergency rescue service and currently houses nearly 300 animals. The facility hopes for help from the county to repair the aged flooring.
“They are cracked, old and are a hazard primarily because viruses and bacteria live in the cracks and it’s very hard to clean,” Villalon said. “When [disease control is compromised], if a dog comes in and gets sick, they have to stay in our TLC unit for medical care, which causes more expenses,” Villalon said.
Lawrence Humane Society receives funding from three sources: a contract with the city and county to provide service, adopt and surrender animal fees, and contributions to the facility.
“Despite what many think, we don’t get any funding from the National Humane Society. We raise all of our money locally,” Villalon said. “The shelter needs to raise $700,000 through donations and adoption fees in order to meet our $1.1 million budget,” Villalon said.
The LHS asked for a $15,000 grant from the county for multiple reasons. “I’m asking the government to pay for that because it’s part of the law to have stray animals taken in for at least three days,” Villalon said.
According to the Code of the City of Lawrence 2011 Edition, “The officer shall make a record of all dogs or cats so impounded with their description, date of impoundment and rabies vaccination number. If, within seventy-two (72) hours from the date any dog or cat is impounded and the owner of such dog or cat shall appear and claim his or her dog or cat, said dog or cat may be released upon payment…”
The second reason LHS reached out to the county is focused on the purpose of the facility itself.
“Our ultimate goal is to save as many lives as we can by moving animals quickly from the shelter to homes,” Villalon said. “If the $15,000 isn’t funded the facility will go to its donor base to raise the money, and I’d rather spend money raised to do things that could directly save animal lives than fixing the floors,” Villalon said.
The volunteer work includes walking, playing with, and taking animals to adoption events. Volunteers are not allowed to clean cages or handle sick animals.
“The fact that we can’t help with certain aspects does impact the staff because if enough volunteers aren’t here, they not only have to take care of cleaning, adoptions and sick animals, but also the work that we do,” volunteer Samara Rehfeld, 18, said.
The LHS staff is affected but not defeated by the extra work from ongoing hazards.
“It’s definitely made my job more difficult with animals getting upper respiratory infections and kennel cough,” Amelia Mallett-Kass Lead Animal Care Associate said. “The more sick animals we have, the more likely the germs are to spread. We have to keep on top of hazardous areas so bacteria doesn’t come into contact with animals,” Mallett-Kass said.
Employees continue work with the facility despite tedious tasks the hazards create.
“Considering that the facility is not ideal, we’re doing really amazing work inside of it,” Villalon said. “We have a 76% live release rate, which is up from 52% this time last year,” Villalon said.
The LHS relies on help from the community to make ends meet. The facility uses donations of basic necessities such as laundry detergent, bleach and soap.
“Without help from the government, the hazards cannot currently be eliminated,” Villalon Said.
“We work really hard to keep our animals happy and healthy, but there’s only so much that we can do. This issue is a big project, and we are going to need help from the public to fix it,” Mallett-Kass said.