The January 9 presenter for the meeting of the Rotary Club of Heber Springs was Wendy Hosman, Shelter Manager for the Heber Springs Humane Society. The mission of the humane society, she said, is to shelter homeless animals, place them in permanent homes, and promote responsible pet ownership through education and sterilization. Founded in 1986, the Virginia Harrison shelter was created with an initial donation of seven acres of land from its namesake founder. The current building was built in 2007.
With facilities for about 90 pets, the shelter routinely runs well over 100 at any given time, but the dedicated staff and volunteers are able to work wonders with limited resources. In 2017, they adopted out 702 dogs and cats, and had a euthanasia rate of only 4.6% -- only three years ago, that number was at 25%. When Ms. Hosman returned to work for the shelter in 2014, she said she would only work with the Humane Society if that number was going to change. They are not in the business of killing animals, she said, and the board and staff of the shelter began to seek out innovative ways to accomplish placing more animals for adoption.
In 2015, the shelter began participating in Petsmart’s Rescue Wagon program, which has transported 315 dogs to the Northeast and the state of Wisconsin since that time. In those places, spay and neuter laws are very strict, and there is actually a shortage of adoptable animals. Cleburne county stray animals are given a new lease on life and a chance to be a part of a forever home by participating in this program. “If we ever hope to get ahead of the pet overpopulation problem in our area,” said Ms. Hosman, “it will be because people begin to take seriously the need to spay and neuter their pets.”
To help with that, the Shelter also received a grant to help low income residents with spay or neuter assistance. Because of the grant, approved applicants can have their pets sterilized and receive rabies vaccinations for only $20.00. Since the program began, they have awarded 510 vouchers for pet sterilizations. For those who would like to apply, simply contact the shelter for guidelines.
Petsmart Charities also recently awarded the shelter a separate grant for facility improvements. Individual donations were down in 2017, she said, so it is likely that they will be doing more fundraising and more grant applications to try to keep up with the needs of the animals.
A relatively new program that the shelter has spearheaded is the TNR program. TNR stands for Trap, Neuter and Return – a program to deal with the overpopulation of feral and homeless cats in Cleburne County. Feral and homeless cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, and returned to their cat colonies – in the long term, this program will lead to decreases in over population, and has already resulted in fewer cats picked up by animal control this year. As of December 2017, the program had sterilized 753 cats. This program, like all of the others held by the shelter, depends on the support of the public through donations.
If you would like to be involved with helping the animals, volunteers are always welcome. Friends of the Humane Society also meet on the first Thursday of the month at 5:30 PM every month. For more information about any of the shelter programs, to adopt a pet, or to volunteer, stop by the shelter at 49 Shelter Lane, or call 501-362-7322. The Heber Springs Humane Society can also be found on Facebook and online at www.heberspringshumanesociety.org
Rotarians are “People of Action” who are making a difference locally, nationally and internationally. The Object of Rotary is "to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise." The Rotary Club of Heber Springs meets each Tuesday at noon on the ASU-Heber Springs Campus. For more information about the Rotary Club of Heber Springs, please visit our Facebook page at facebook.com/TheRotaryClubofHeberSpringsAR.