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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

For the love of animals

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A volunteer at the Spring River Animal Services playing with dogs to acclimate them to being around other dogs and to interact well with people so that they will be more likely to be adopted. The animals that are adoptable at the shelter are adopted through a petfinder Web site nationwide. Photo/Tammy Curtis
For many residents of Cherokee Village, there have been mixed messages regarding the fate of the Spring River Animal Shelter. While the shelter does have some things to overcome in respect to funding and responsibility, its demise is not in question.

To Helga Lange, a worker and volunteer who spends six days a week working either at or for the facility from home and Shorlyn Morris, Cherokee Village Animal Control officer, the consensus is that, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Both agree that a lot of the problems the public is hearing about, regarding the expense the animal shelter is supposedly burdening the residents of Cherokee Village with, is due to lack of planning by the city in the start-up phase of the facility. They both spend many hours at the facility and are the ones who would be most knowledgeable in regard to the day to day operations of the facility. For this reason, they too would like their voices to be heard on the proposals.

Some of the expenses that are supposed to be costing the city in respect to the shelter they feel should have been taken care of prior to the opening. Such things as the deck that makes the facility American's with Disabilities Act compatible and the septic system used to house the waste from the wash off during the cleaning process are things they feel should have been addressed prior to the opening in March of 2008. Instead, these oversights by the city are being called new expenses, essentially making the shelter appear to be a money pit, rather than having the public see the facility for the good it does and the extremely large amounts of donations of food, money for vet care, transport and other vet supplies they receive.

According to the Annual Report, from April to December of 2008, Spring River Animal Services generated $18,001. 35 from donations, rummage sales, recycling, Adopt-A-Thons and animal related fees. They also received $34,950 in pet food, litter and treat donations. This does not count the numerous volunteer hours. It is important to note that 80 percent of the volunteers quit when adoptable animals had to be euthanized due to numbers, many of which were adoptable animals.

In addition, the shelter still has many selfless volunteers who spend a lot of time working with the animals so they are not in a pound-like environment where they are continually caged. Volunteers have built nice cages in the cat house for the cats to roam, play and sit in the windows and look out. One volunteer walks, runs and plays with the dogs on a regular basis. Others do chores such as cleaning cages and feeding the animals.

Lange and Morris both go above and beyond the call of duty with the animals. They both stress that their goal is to get the animals that are not reclaimed to be adopted. The wall of the shelter is full of unbelievable success stories that will bring tears to even the most cynical person's eyes.

Lange, who is paid for 18 hours of work through a temporary training program called Experience Works, through the NADC office, also works on a volunteer basis four days a week including Saturday. Her heart and soul are in this facility. Lange photographs animals for adoption on a Web site called petfinder.com. She must post all of these from home as the facility has no Internet access. The Petfinder Web site locates adopters for families all over the United States, broadening the area significantly for those who desire a specific type of dog.

Once an animal has passed a stringent health examination and received a health certificate for transport, they are cleared for adoption. The adopter pays a $250 adoption fee and $150 for transport. Volunteers with a private USDA organization take them to Walnut Ridge to meet an Alpha Dog Transport vehicle for transport to the next stop. These animals ride in style in an outfitted 5th wheel camper complete with pet carriers. Transport drivers stop to walk and feed the animals if the trip is lengthy. Much like the pony express, they then meet the next Alpha Dog Transport vehicles until they reach their destination where the animals are met by their adopters.

Lange, a very strong advocate for animals, would like the public to know more about the facility and it's uniqueness. Spring River Animal Shelter strives to adopt and a lot of effort is spent socializing dogs so that they will not only be good family dogs, but also so they will get along well with other dogs. Lange said that she has offered public invitations for members of the community to come out and tour the facility and was shocked that not a single person showed up.

Lange said the overwhelming success of the recent spay and neuter clinics have brought to light the need for more of these type of clinics in the area. The clinics are conducted by Arkansans for Animals. Lange said, "May is already full and we are working on June."

The recent special meeting of the Cherokee Village City Council brought forth several proposals to help address the funding of the facility, but Morris says, "How are we burdening the city?" With donations, food and volunteers, it is hard to see how this facility could be a financial burden.

When asked how she would like to see the city's proposal work, Morris said she would like to work four hours in the shelter and four hours on patrol. Lange said, "I can look at an animal and tell if it is adoptable, but Shorlyn is the one who can assess them and see if they are healthy, have worms or other things."

Morris, who is the only salaried Animal Service employee, said in regard to the meeting that she was concerned with the fact that the city was comparing the shelter with the one from Jonesboro, a city which is much larger and has far more manpower. Morris said that the proposal she presented to Chief French asked for either two part-time kennel workers at 18-20 hours per week or one for 25 hours during the week and one for 10 hours on the weekend. She also asked that Lange be retained with pay at 24-28 hours per week when her grant runs out at the end of May. She stated that by hiring kennel workers to work along side volunteers she would free up three hours daily to be proactive in animal control efforts. Morris feels that as Animal Control Officer she should retain control of the facility while patrolling four to five hours day.

Morris feels that although she has to report to the Cherokee Village Police Chief that she should have a voice in the operations of the center. Undoubtedly, this small shelter has seen many successes in regard to adoptions, volunteers and donations during the first year.

Morris said she would like to see a long term plan developed concerning the facility that will give a definite sense of direction and predefined goals. Lange and Morris invite the public to stop by the facility any time to discuss questions and concerns, check out their operation, adopt an animal or perhaps volunteer.

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