Houston Humane Society marks year milestone

WARNER ROBINS — When Lori Love reflects on the first year of the Humane Society of Houston County, the organization’s president rattles off a laundry list of projects.

“We’re just constantly busy,” Love said.

The Humane Society of Houston County opened in June 2008, and since then, volunteers and popular fundraisers such as doggie quilt raffles and broken jewelry donation drives have allowed the organization to prosper.

Last September, the group received tax-exempt, nonprofit status. Within two months of forming, the organization boasted 60 members. Today, that number has nearly tripled to 150 people. Love said she has been surprised by the high level of public support.

“Even if people don’t have the time, they want to give us their support because they want us to be long-term,” Love said. “It’s the thing that keeps us going.”

The organization is grateful for the support, Love said, and works with those who want to participate. With the economy struggling, the society cut its membership fees from $25 to $12. The fees and donations are spent on educating the public and offering spay and neuter programs for low-income pet owners.

About a dozen people hold positions with the organization where everyone volunteers. Because it doesn’t have a central building, board members hold meetings at their homes.

A key partner in the Humane Society’s efforts has been the animal control facility in Warner Robins, which houses dogs and cats from Warner Robins, Centerville and Houston County. In the year since it’s been operating, the Humane Society has rescued about 180 animals from the shelter.

Warner Robins police Capt. Brenda Parks-Mathern, who oversees the city’s animal control efforts, said the Humane Society has been a tremendous asset. Parks-Mathern credits the organization’s efforts getting animals placed on and placed in homes.

“It allows us to get animals out of here and into homes, which keeps them from being euthanized,” she said.

But things haven’t always been easy these past 12 months.

With the down economy, the number of people calling the Humane Society wanting to get rid of their pets has tripled, Love said.

Love said Humane Society workers try to persuade the owner to serve as a temporary foster home for the pet while they find a new owner. Many times, the owners want more immediate action.

“Ninety percent of the people say, ‘Come take the animal right now or I’ll drop them off in a nice neighborhood,’ ” Love said.

The organization has to rely on its five official foster homes and is always looking for more people to foster animals.

To get a handle on the unwanted pet population, the organization has worked hard on its public educational efforts.

“A lot of people are stuck on the feeling it’s wrong to spay and neuter dogs,” Love said.

Looking to the future, Love said the organization would like to work closer with local government to focus on policy, particularly dog licensing, spaying and neutering.

“It would make pet owners a little more responsible,” Love said.

Mayor Donald Walker said he would be willing to discuss such changes with the Humane Society. Like Parks-Mathern, he’s grateful to the organization.

“If we didn’t have a Humane Society, we would be left with all of it,” Walker said.

Walker said changes in animal laws often come with controversy.

When his father, the late Homer J. Walker, was mayor, he pushed for an ordinance requiring every dog and cat in the city to be registered. Walker said his father served one term, and his push for an unpopular animal control law could be the reason why.

“People get very protective when it comes to their animals,” Walker said.

As the Humane Society moves into its second year, Love said it looks to continue to help the animal population while controlling it.

“Our goal will always be prevention and education,” Love said.

To contact Natasha Smith, call 923-3109.