Hooves and Paws Rescue has not signed on to serve as Mills County’s animal control agency, but the six-year old, non-profit animal shelter is helping out where it can at the request of area law enforcement.
“We’re there when they call,” said Genea Stoops, co-founder of Hooves and Paws Rescue. “We assist when they need it but we are not getting paid. We haven’t contracted with anyone.”
Stoops said the city of Malvern and the Mills County Supervisors have made overtures to her organization about providing animal control, but both agreements remain in the discussion phase.
Mills County has previously contracted with the Loess Hills Humane Society (LHHS) but that shelter, located south of Glenwood, closed its doors this summer due to financial troubles. That shelter and the contents are currently up for sale.
“Bottom line, we will assist Glenwood and Malvern and the county as much as needed, but until we have our shelter all up and running, it’s just not realistic (to contract for animal control),” Stoops said.
Stoops has ruled out purchasing the former LHHS location.
Stoops and husband, Bill, opened Hooves and Paws Rescue, located on seven acres of farmland along Highway 34 west of Malvern, in 2005, rescuing primarily large breed dogs and horses. The Stoops live on the property and serve as the shelter directors. The shelter also has a board of directors and about two dozen volunteers, Stoops said. In recent years the shelter has grown to accept all dogs, in addition to horses and mules. A fundraising campaign began earlier this year to build a 1,500 to 2,000 square foot shelter on the property for dogs only.
Stoops envisions an animal control arrangement with the county similar to the agreement with LHHS, but on a long-term basis, not year-to-year.
“They (Mills County) know the work we do and they keep calling us so I’m hopeful we’ll get it worked out,” Stoops said. “We’ll have to make a determination of what part (of the shelter) is for Mills County and what part is for other dogs from other areas we serve.”
The contract process would have Hooves and Paws submitting a contract proposal and the two sides coming to terms on the financial aspects, length of contract and services provides.
Stoops said fundraising for their new shelter is going well and they hope to break ground on the new building this spring.
“Right now, we’re fundraising,” she said. “We’re up on year-end so we’re hoping for some good donations. During the winter is actually a good time to do fundraising because we’re not out and about as much, I hope, but it’s been pretty crazy so far this December. But the animals come first, as far as what we’re doing.”
Stoops said it took over seven years for the LHHS to open its doors and her agency took in three to four times as many animals as LHHS. She declined to discuss the specifics of why she felt the LHHS effort failed, but she said she is determined to see her organization not make the same mistakes Loess Hills made.
“Everybody has good intentions, and it’s for the animals, but if you don’t have all your ducks in a row, you’re setting yourself up for failure,” she said. “And there’s no reason to do that. People ask me, when are you going to be up and running? When my building is up.”
Stoops said the majority of her donations right now come from Nebraska residents.
“I think people understand what I do there and I know Mills County has been burned. People have told me, ‘I don’t know if we’re going to donate because of the mess that Loess Hills caused and their high euthanasia.’ Well, we’re not Loess Hills and you have to give us a chance. And if you don't, there won't be animal control. Because my shelter will be up and running, but I won't be working for Mills County.”
Hooves and Paws is responding to nearly all types of animal control calls in Mills, Fremont and Montgomery counties, and that won’t change, Stoops said. The shelter recently rescued three, six-week-old puppies found wondering around Highway 34 and assisted the Mills County Sheriff's Office with a mule that was wandering along the same area last week.
Hooves and Paws already has an animal control officer ready to hire on when the shelter is up and running. Stoops said her organization will offer assistance on call, contract or not, as they have been doing, with a fee attached to every officer assist the shelter goes on.
“They're better with no fee but they're realistic,” Stoops said of the county's current services arrangement with Hooves and Paws. “They know if they didn't have anyone to contain that mule, they would have had a car wreck. So they have to be realistic. And I think they are.”
Stoops hopes to have the funds this winter to get the shelter up and going in the spring, and hopefully, contract agreement s with the county and individual cities.