The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 14, 2013

Century of service may come to an end

Lack of volunteers, not money, cripples county Humane Society

By MARGIE NETZEL - mnetzel@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

MONROE TOWNSHIP —  A critical shortage of volunteers may cripple the Ashtabula County Humane Society, humane agent and board member Kim Walbridge said, as foster homes and shelter help becomes more scarce.

“There are five or six of us running this organization, and three of us are carrying main burden,” Walbridge said. “We need help. We need hands. Right now we barely have enough volunteers to take care of the cats every day.”

Between shelter duties and cruelty investigation calls, Humane Society board members are strapped for time and energy, Walbridge said.

The shelter moved from Austinburg Township to Monroe Township to “downsize and save money,” Walbridge said.

The ACHS is not affiliated with the Ashtabula County Animal Protective League. The Ashtabula County commissioners contract the APL to shelter homeless dogs and cats, though APL workers do not have the right to seize animals or cite people for animal neglect or cruelty. The APL also does not shelter large animals or farm animals. The ACHS, which takes in all types of animals, is county funded as agents investigate cruelty and neglect and issue citations as necessary, with support from the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department.

The society is now operating out of a mobile home on Tenter Street. It doesn’t keep regular hours, and adoptions are by appointment only.

The organization cares for 15 cats, 11 dogs and 11 horses. Foster homes are needed for the animals, Walbridge said.

“We need to alleviate the burden on our foster homes, and fosters so critical for us.” she said. “We have 11 dogs and just two foster homes. We can’t find people to come to the shelter every day and take care of the animals.”

The county Humane Society has been operating for 100 years, Walbridge said.

“We are at the point where we can barely help the animals we have and it is getting so much harder for us to go out and help the animals we get calls for because we are so strapped for volunteers,” she said. “It may come to the point that we look at the reality of helping the animals in Ashtabula County. To be honest, we are facing closing for lack of volunteers.”

The not-for-profit organization operates as an animal shelter and also conducts animal cruelty investigations.

“We are not euthanizing for space and that is why we need the foster homes so badly,” Walbridge said. “Horses come to us in terrible shape. I’d say 85 percent of our animals need some sort of rehabilitation.”

The shelter always needs donations for veterinary care, housing, feed and other needs, Walbridge said, but the immediate problem is finding volunteers.

“We always have a problem with funding — every shelter has a problem with funding, that is a given,” she said. “Money is always an issue, but we need volunteers.”

The ACHS members are also looking for permanent homes for their 11 horses.

“We are choosy about who gets the horses,” Walbridge said. “We are looking for really good, permanent homes for each one of them that will fit their individual needs.”

All ACHS animals, except horses, are available at www.petfinder.com. The horses are listed at www.equine.com.

To become a foster home, call 969-6100 and choose option one to foster. Monetary donations can be sent to P.O. Box 422, Jefferson 44047.

The shelter always needs dog and cat food, cat litter, pet treats, collars, and cleaning supplies. Supplies for horses are also appreciated.

“Anyone can hold a drive for the animals,” Walbridge said. “Schools, organizations, businesses, scout troops and other groups can make a big difference just by collecting food and other items to support the animals.”

For more information on planning a drive, or to request the pick