The Humane Society of Raleigh County is urging the community to contribute to an $80,000 campaign, which, if met, will save the organization from shutting down.
According to the Humane Society’s creative director, Angela Messer, the shelter’s expenses are bending under the weight of an increase in medical emergencies last year, which resulted in a $150,000 vet bill.
“Last year, a lot of our animals had to undergo intensive surgeries to save their lives," Messer said. "We are only 20 percent funded, so those higher than usual medical expenses hit us hard.
"We were threatened to be cut off from our vet care, so we paid the vet bills. Now we can’t pay our utilities. We just didn’t start this year off on a good leg.”
Nancy Johnson, President of the Humane Society since 2018, agreed.
“We started off the year in a hole," Johnson said. "We managed to get out of it for a little bit, but when spring rolled around and all the puppies and kitties were born, we fell right back in. We need these funds to pay our utilities, outstanding taxes and purchase cleaning supplies.”
Since 1979, the Humane Society – a non-profit organization with facilities located at 325 Gray Flats Road – has been serving the people and pets of Raleigh County while striving to prevent animal abuse and neglect.
In a recent report, the organization says approximately 1,300 animals have been taken into the shelter in 2019 alone.
Of that total, 75 percent were dogs and the remaining 25 percent were cats.
This year, the shelter has recorded 427 adoptions, sent 706 animals out to partner rescue foundations and saw 126 animals returned to their owners. The shelter also has several animals enrolled in a foster care program, where they are taken in and cared for by families in the area.
Currently, the shelter is housing around 200 animals. The in-house population of the animals, right now, is split evenly between cats and dogs.
Regardless of all the work the shelter is doing to secure homes for the abandoned, neglected and stray animals in Raleigh County, Society officials say the shelter will be forced to close at the end of the year unless they are able to raise the needed funds. Messer explained that the shelter’s cost of utilities – power, garbage, phone and water – usually falls around $4,300 a month. That does not cover payroll.
The Humane Society currently employs 11 individuals – two full-time and nine part-time. They also have six board members, all of whom are volunteers.
Additionally, between vet runs and animal transports, the shelter’s van averages around 4,000 miles a year, which requires money for gas and routine maintenance.
While the number of adoptions is equal to that of last year, Messer explained that the organization loses money on every animal that is adopted.
“When an animal is ready to be adopted, that animal must undergo an initial exam, get vaccinated, dewormed, sometimes undergo treatments for respiratory ailments, go to the vet if they have an injury of any kind, and get spayed or neutered," Messer said. "These procedures can cost anywhere from $80 to $175 depending on the animal.”
She said the $80 adoption fee goes towards repurchasing vaccines and other medications needed for the next animal that is brought in.
A large portion of the shelter’s food and car liter is donated by the community. These donations do help alleviate some of the expenses but are not enough to close the current deficit.
This year, the shelter has seen an average monthly support of $4,500 given by Raleigh County and $5,800 by the City of Beckley.
According to Johnson, the shelter has not had a set budget for several years.
“We had an accountant years ago, but we got to a point where we just couldn’t afford it anymore. We do keep an eye on expenses, but things do get out of control the more animals we take in.”
In hopes of remaining open for 2020 and beyond, the Humane Society has started an $80,000 campaign.
“Our goal is to reach the $80,000 by the end of the year," Messer said. "We have raised $14,000 so far, so we are making progress.”
The organization hopes to raise a large portion of the goal at their Santa Paws event at the Plaza Mall on Dec. 7.
The shelter has also placed angel trees at several local businesses where people can purchase Christmas ornaments decorated with pictures of animals ready for adoption. Each ornament purchase is a donation to the shelter and will go towards the cost of care for the in-house animals.
Other fundraising opportunities for the shelter will be available during the Beckley Art Center’s Giving Tuesday Open House on Dec. 3.
“Anytime we can set up an event, even if we make just $50 or $100, it definitely makes a difference and could pay off an outstanding bill,” Johnson explained.
In an attempt to help alleviate some of the Humane Society’s financial burden, Commissioner Ron Hedrick visited the shelter Tuesday.
“I was able to tour the facility and meet with some of the directors," Hedrick said. "They are definitely on my radar and I want to do what I can to help them out.”
Commissioner Hedrick stated that there has to be a push from inside the county to go after getting grants for organizations such as the Humane Society.
“We are going to find them some funding,” he stated.
According to Johnson, the County Commissioner invited the Humane Society’s board members to attend a meeting in December to further discuss their financial issues and possible solutions.
“There’s a chance we could lose the building,” Messer stated. “That really makes it real.
"What a lot of people don’t understand is that anytime someone in Raleigh County calls animal control and they go and retrieve an animal from whatever the situation is, those animals come here," she said. "Without us, there is no other animal shelter in the entire county. Where are those animals supposed to go if we are gone?”
Along with Messer, Johnson shared her own passion for the shelter.
“I love that place," she said. "It’s my heart. I love animals and I always have.
"I don’t want to see them suffer, Johnson said. "I want them all to have warm homes and full bellies and that’s something they can’t get out on the street. The shelter may not be a home but its somewhere they can be taken care of.
“We need all the help we can get. I don’t want to see them fail.”
For more information on the shelter, on how to adopt an animal, or on how to donate, visit the Humane Society of Raleigh County’s official Facebook page, visit their website at hsrcwv.org or call 304-253-8921.