Packed cages and empty bowls
DEB KERN COURTESY PHOTO
Gus is a 4-year-old Jack Russell Terrier that is available for adoption now. The Humane Society of Huron Valley shelter sees many high-energy dogs because people buy them and then do not train them or spend time playing or exercising them.
April Mulkey was forced to intervene when a friend was no longer able to properly care for his female pit bull, Sheba. Sheba was losing a lot of weight and being left alone all the time, said Mulkey. She knew something had to be done, and took Sheba to the Humane Society of Huron Valley for help.
“I didn’t want to take her somewhere like Detroit because she was such a nice dog. I didn’t want her to end up as a fighting dog,” said Mulkey, 40, of Ann Arbor. “She was such a sweetheart.”
Mulkey called the HSHV several times a week after taking the dog in to find out if she had been adopted. She was relieved to find that Sheba eventually did find a new family to care for her.
Officials at the HSHV need more such success stories like that of Sheba’s.
Times are tough in Michigan, there’s no secret there. With the holidays quickly approaching, many are feeling the financial crunch even more. While the people battle unemployment, foreclosure and daunting mortgage payments, domestic animals are fighting a housing battle of their own.
The HSHV is full, even with the added space of a brand new facility in 2009, according to Marketing Director Deb Kern, who believes the hard times are to blame.
“The economy is pretty horrible. With job loss and home foreclosure, and couple that with many rental properties that are breed restrictive,” she said. “People are left with no place to take their dogs or cats.”
The HSHV took in 2,082 dogs and 2,567 cats from January to the end of September this year. The HSHV has adopted out 2,900 animals in the same time frame. Do the math, and find that’s a surplus of 1,749 animals in need of a home.
“We’ve only had one week this entire year where we’ve adopted out more than we’ve taken in. That’s just a typical problem, especially in Michigan,” said Kern.
The HSHV is an “open-admission” shelter; it is not considered “no-kill.” Open admission means that the HSHV will take any animal that is brought in, as long as there is room and resources available to care for it. A “no-kill” shelter will take animals that it can adopt out. Most “no-kill” facilities reserve the right to refuse an animal for a range of reasons.
When an animal is relinquished to the HSHV, it receives a veterinary examination. Animals are spayed/neutered and are brought up to date on their shots. Upon completing the veterinary exam, animals receive a behavioral analysis. This process allows the HSHV to find any medical issues or behavior problems that need to be addressed prior to adoption.
Liane Pinson, 24, of Dexter and her husband, Grant, are both dog lovers. The Pinsons adopted an 8-year-old black lab from the HSHV last year. They named him Duke. The Pinsons chose Duke because of his personality and size. They also chose the HSHV for a variety of reasons.
“I was pleased with the overall experience and would consider adopting from them again,” said Liane. “The staff was really friendly and helpful with finding dogs that fit what we were looking for.”
Not everyone is able to adopt an animal from the HSHV. Many simply cannot afford to take in a homeless pet. The number of strays versus the number of relinquished animals coming into the shelter varies week to week, but HSHV is doing everything in its power to help people keep their pets.
HSHV offers a “Safe Harbor” program for people facing a housing emergency such as eviction or domestic violence. They will take the pets for a short period of time until owners are able to find alternative housing. HSHV also helps families in need to help feed their pets when money is tight.
In 2007, HSHV started the “Bountiful Bowls” pet food assistance program. The program was designed to help struggling families keep their pets by offering short-term pet food assistance.
“Currently, there are over 200 families enrolled in the program. We know it’s helping them keep their pets in their homes,” said Kern.
HSHV also partners with area retailers such as Walmart and Meijer to collect pet food that they cannot sell. Retailers are unable to sell food with damaged packaging, so they donate it to HSHV. As long as the food is not expired and is of good quality, HSHV collects it. Volunteers then weigh and distribute one month’s worth of food to families enrolled in the program. Bountiful Bowls will assist families with up to five pets.
“I don’t know if life-saving would be overstating it, but it’s come at a critical time for our family,” said Bill, an Ann Arbor resident receiving assistance from the shelter. He asked that his full name not be used.
HSHV cares for companion animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, domestic birds and other small animals. Many organizations dissuade people from adopting around the holidays, because so many animals end up returning to them in January.
However, according to Kelly Schwartz, Director of Volunteers and Operational Support, HSHV does not discourage adoptions.
“We do counsel visitors about not adopting pets to give as gifts this time of year,” said Schwartz. “We offer gift certificates so the person who will be living with the pet can come in and find the pet that is right for them.”
HSHV spends a lot of time explaining what to expect to potential adopters before they take a pet home with them. The holidays can be a good time to adopt because many families take vacation time and can be home to get to know their new pet, according to Schwartz.
To find out more about HSHV, view pets available for adoption or ways to help, visit