An organization critical to saving the county’s four-legged residents is in danger of shutting down if they aren’t able to raise funds — and soon.
“If things stay like they are, we’re looking at two to three more months of operation,” Humane Society of Cherokee County (HSCC) Treasurer Beth Osment said bluntly. “We need money.”
So what would that mean for animals at the Cherokee County Animal Shelter?
“If an owner didn’t come forward within five days, the animal would be euthanized,” Osment said. “The shelter does not offer adoption services.”
So far in 2022, 1,200 animals have been surrendered to the animal shelter. HSCC has been able to save nearly 600 of those; the other 600 were either reclaimed by their owners or euthanized. In 2021, 2,000 animals entered the shelter and only 200 were reclaimed by an owner.
HSCC’s annual operating budget is around $225,000, and apart from $7,500 received from Cherokee County, the organization operates solely on donations and community support. The funding from the county goes back to the animals at the animal shelter, which is owned by Cherokee County. That money funds vet services at the shelter, DHPP and distemper shots, flea and tick medicine and dewormer treatment — medicines and services that were not provided at the shelter prior to the county funds.
The Humane Society has four paid employees who visit the animal shelter daily, pull animals in need of treatment, and transport animals to and from the vet and to rescues.
“Many years ago we operated with just volunteers and it didn’t last; it wasn’t dependable,” Osment said. “Our employees are the backbone of HSCC. They are nose-to-nose with the animals we rescue from the moment the animal enters the shelter to the day they receive their ‘freedom to ride’ to our property to the day they leave us to begin a new journey.”
The organization does not have expensive overhead or an executive to pay — every dollar donated goes towards animal care in Cherokee County.
A common expense for the Humane Society is treating animals who test positive for heartworms. The base cost is $275-$400 per animal, which is already a greatly reduced cost. Those heartworm-positive animals then have to stay with the Humane Society for an additional two weeks while recovering, which incurs additional boarding fees and food costs.
“When it’s all said and done it can be between $800-$1,000 to treat an animal with heartworms,” Osment said. “And we have a lot, I mean a lot, of those cases.”
Inflation has only caused more strain on the Humane Society’s dwindling funds with the rising costs of pet food and gas needed to travel to the shelter and vet offices.
Another large expense for the Humane Society is providing emergency veterinary services to animals who enter the shelter with dire medical needs. Most recently, HSCC provided life-saving care to three animals who arrived at the shelter last week:
- Alfalfa came to the animal shelter as a surrender when the owner couldn’t afford to have a leg and mouth injury repaired.
- Topaz was nearly decapitated from an embedded collar. She was brought to the shelter by animal control.
- Sammie, who was brought in as a stray, had a broken leg.
Topaz and Sammie are both recovering from their injuries, but on Tuesday afternoon, Osment got some heartbreaking news about Alfalfa.
“While undergoing surgery to amputate his leg, Alfalfa crashed and was unable to be revived,” she said. “I’m still in shock.”
In the case of Topaz, Osment said it’s not uncommon to see similar injuries in dogs who enter the local shelter. Typically, the owner will get the dog as a puppy, tie them up on a chain and neglect them while the collar grows around their body, she said. Topaz’s serious neck injury was able to be cleaned and stitched, and she is on pain medication while recovering.
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These three “big cases,” as Osment calls them, each cost between $600-$800 just for the vet services. Additional costs will incur while the dogs spend 6-8 weeks on the Humane Society’s property to heal before they can be transferred to a rescue.
While the Humane Society is grateful for food and pet supply donations, they say monetary donations are what is needed at this time.
“We’re not looking to do anything fancy,” Osment said. “We just need to pay our employees who work directly with the shelter and save these animals. We really need people to get on board. Having monthly donors would be great and give us a steady income.”
HSCC has scheduled the popular Mutts Gone Nuts dog show to return to Gaffney in March. The fundraiser was last held in 2019 and was a huge success. The HSCC board scheduled to have the show return in 2020 and 2021 but had to cancel due to COVID-19 both times.
“We hope we can make it until then,” Osment said of the March fundraiser.
In November, the Humane Society will once again host the Santa Paws event where pets (or humans) can take photos with Santa; but although it’s a fun event, it only brings in a couple of hundred dollars, Osment noted.
Although an ominous future looms on the organization if funds don’t pour in, Osment is optimistic about what is to come for the Humane Society.
“Once the county’s new animal shelter is built, HSCC will be able to offer adoption services from the facility, and we are looking forward to providing that service,” she said.
According to Cherokee County Administrator Steve Bratton, the building design for the new animal shelter will be presented to council in October. If approved, Bratton expects a contract will be awarded in mid-December. The facility will be located next to the old Alma Elementary School.
Ways to donate to the Humane Society of Cherokee County:
• Mail a check to P.O. Box 2223, Gaffney, SC 29342
• Visit www.humanesocietycherokeecounty.com and click the donate button
• Visit Humane Society of Cherokee County on Facebook
• Via PayPal at PayPal.me/cherokeeshelter
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