Humane society again strapped for cash

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 26, 2001

Vicksburg Warren County Humane Society assistant manager Jeff Kertis takes a rest after cleaning cages as “Loki” sniffs out doggy treats Saturday at the center on U.S. 61 South. Kertis said Loki is his buddy and keeps him company while he is working. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[11/26/2001]The Vicksburg Warren Humane Society is running low on funds and is again looking for help to keep the animal shelter afloat.

“Right now we have enough money to make payroll for about another week and a half,” said Claire Weeks, president of the local group’s board.

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She said the society has about $1,500 in the bank to fund $2,500 in bills this month plus the $1,200 in payroll expenses for four employees. She said the humane society will need about $10,000 to keep the facility on U.S. 61 South operating through the year. Although there is a national humane society, local organizations are on their own financially.

“I don’t want to say that we’re going to close our doors,” Weeks said, “because I’ll go knock on doors if I have to.”

But animals like Lenny, a 5-year-old mixed-breed dog, could be the ones to suffer if donations don’t improve.

Lenny was taken to the society’s shelter on U.S. 61 South Saturday after being hit by a car. Although the pup did not appear to be in pain, workers at the humane society fear he may have a broken leg.

Plans were to take him to a veterinarian first thing today.

“If the vet says his leg is broken he’ll probably have to be put down,” Weeks said. “We just don’t have the money for the treatment.”

Funding the society has been a recurring problem since 1997 when a disagreement erupted over its control. Weeks, who was on the board of directors at the time, said the effects of the rift lingered for a few years, but that the old wounds have since healed.

One possible reason for the shortage is that most people have been putting their charitable donations toward funds for the families of the victims of Sept. 11. Like many other local charities, the society is getting less of the pie.

“I don’t know that that is what has happened, but we’ve taken a big hit,” Weeks said.

The society gets a $12,000 allocation a year from Warren County and $15,000 a year from the Combined Federal Campaign. The City of Vicksburg formerly provided funds, but has a separate impound facility and employees. Mayor Laurence Leyens, who took office in July, has said he is interested in combining the two services, but that doesn’t pay today’s bills.

The society also gets food for the animals from Wal-Mart SuperCenter and other local businesses, but otherwise the only income is donations. The total cost to operate the facility is about $90,000 a year.

“We kind of stay short throughout the year,” Weeks said.

About 50 animals a week are taken to the society by people who drop them off or animals like Lenny that are injured. Of those, about 15 percent are adopted, but many are put to sleep.

That is still more than the national average of about 9 percent.

“We’ve got some wonderful employees who keep it really clean and keep the cost down,” Weeks said.

The employees name many of the animals like Loki, a fluffy, white puppy that has been there for about a month. Loki had been adopted by a family, but was brought back a week later.

Weeks said that Loki is still lucky because he is “adoptable” and should find a permanent home soon. Until then, the puppy that whines and wags his tail until someone plays with him, is one of the favorites of the staff at the society and even has his own collar.

“That’s one of our missions here,” said Weeks, who owns four Labrador retrievers. “To give each and every animal love so that no matter what happens to them they will know that somebody loved them.”

It costs $60 to adopt a pet, and the price includes the cost of the animal’s first shots and neutering.