Grant is ‘shot in the arm’ for Humane Society

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

    The Lied Foundation Trust has awarded the Loess Hills Humane Society a grant of $100,000 to help with expenses and to complete several construction projects at the two year-old animal shelter south of Glenwood.
    The Lied trust assisted in the original construction of the shelter with a $200,000 grant in 2008. Approximately half of the additional $100,000 awarded this November will be used to complete payments to building contractors, matching grants, the installation of kenneling for a cat adoption area, an upgrade to the dog exercise area and the purchase of supplies and equipment.  The cat adoption area is estimated to cost $20,000.
    The remaining money will go toward operational expenses and a payment on the property’s debt service. Construction of the shelter was completed with a loan of $265,000 guaranteed by the USDA Rural Development. An annual payment of $20,000 in principal and interest is due on that loan in January, said Alan Deines, LHHS board president.
    A LHHS Board of Directors financial report for the past fiscal year, which concluded Aug. 21, 2010, shows the shelter’s total revenues as $179,000 and total expenditures of $181,000 for a net shortfall of $2,000.
    Deines said in a press release that the last fiscal year reflects revenues that included grants with restrictions on their use and a sharp uptick in expenses related to the highly publicized seizure of 27 pits bulls from a rural Pacific Junction property last spring.
    “This grant is a great shot in the arm for us,” said Deines. “It basically makes sure we meet our debt service obligations and then lets us have some additional cash to keep operating. It’s bought us another year for sure.”
    The shelter has been hit with its fair share of financial set backs in its first two years. In addition to the expense of the seized pit bulls, a slow economic recovery nationwide has hurt non-profit donations. An animal clinic headed by Dr. Dale Gillett, which opened in the shelter earlier this summer, was shutdown this fall after Deines and the board determined it wasn’t “a good business model.” Gillett, however, remains on the LHHS board.
    “It’s a hard thing to say,” Deines said of the clinic contributing to the shelter’s financial woes. “It was using up quite a bit of our staff time to assist with his (Gillet’s) practice and we just felt like we were better off not doing that.”
    Deines also added he didn’t think the shelter could afford to “subsidize” a veterinarian when there were other clinics in the area.
    Kelly Nutter is the shelter director and also serves as a full-time animal control officer. Nearly 20 percent of the shelter’s operating expenses come from animal control services in the county. Currently LHHS has animal control contracts with Glenwood, Hastings, Pacific Junction and Henderson. An agreement with the county, which expired this summer, remains in effect while the LHHS negotiates the terms of a new contract with Mills County.
    Silver City opted out of an agreement this summer and Malvern has not contracted with the LHHS but the shelter will respond to calls for animal control assistance from the Sheriff’s Department and the city of Malvern.
    Deines said the three full-time employee shelter took in more than 900 animals last year, slightly more than half were dogs of which 80 percent were either adopted out, returned to owners or taken in by a rescue group. Deines guessed the shelter’s euthanization rate is less than 20 percent.
    Deines said plans to hire a full-time business manager for the shelter have been shelved due to current economic problems.
    “It’s sort of a chicken and the egg problem,” said Deines. “I think a business manager would help with earnings but on the other hand we’re not sure how we’d pay them until we got that financial stream going. It’s on the table and something we’d like to do.”
    Deines said the key to finding and maintaining that “financial stream” to keep southwest Iowa’s only humane society operating is a complicated, competitive process.
    “We want to have a consistent fundraising campaign, a list of donors who would be willing to give on an annual basis and we have to continue to grow our animal control arrangements and grant writing,” he said. “There’s a lot of other things we’re thinking about that require analysis (as a board).”
    The Grace United Methodist Church of Glenwood is hosting a spaghetti supper on Dec. 11 to benefit the LHHS. Dinner will be served from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the door for $7. All proceeds will go toward the shelter.