Humane Society celebrates 25 years

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MOUNT VERNON — Twenty-five years ago, The Knox County Humane Society opened its doors at its current location at 400 Columbus Road in Mount Vernon.

The mission of The Knox County Humane Society hasn’t changed much over the years, uniting animals in need with loving homes, but the focus of the shelter has changed slightly over the years, according to Chairman of the Knox County Humane Society Board Martha Otto.

  • Joshua Morrison/News Zuma, a kitten currently available for adoption at the Knox County Humane Society, is held by Antonia Loyer. Loyer serves as an adoption counselor that helps match cats with new owners.
  • Joshua Morrison/News Zuma, a kitten currently available for adoption at the Knox County Humane Society, is held by Antonia Loyer. Loyer serves as an adoption counselor that helps match cats with new owners.
  • Joshua Morrison/News
  • Joshua Morrison/News Jeffrey, a male tiger stripe cat, lounges in his cage Tuesday afternoon at the Knox County Humane Society.

Unlike the Knox County Animal Shelter, the Knox County Humane Society operates completely on donations, grants and memberships, Otto explained. The humane society’s primary purpose, according to its website, “is to provide for the welfare of cats and dogs through public awareness clinics and campaigns, humane sheltering and fostering, adoption and surrender services, rescue and transfer services, initial medical and altering services for stray, surrendered and rescued dogs and cats.” That, in addition to matching healthy and adaptable animals with their forever home and owners, is the focus of the Knox County Humane Society, Otto said. For a long time, until the early 2010s, the Humane Society had a focus on both cats and dogs.

A Jan. 16, 2004, press release in the News, from the Humane Society’s 10 year anniversary, stated that “since 1998, the humane society has rescued more than 1,400 dogs, mostly from the Knox County Animal Shelter, and found homes or rescue organizations for nearly 1,375 of these lucky animals.”

The Humane Society helped dogs through an arrangement with PetSmart called Rescue Waggin’, a national transport program, according to PetSmart’s website, that transfers homeless dogs and puppies from communities with high pet populations and euthanasia and very few potential adopters to animal shelters elsewhere in the country with exceptional adoption programs and more adoption space.

Around 2013 or 2014, Otto said, the humane society “graduated” from the program, meaning that the situation had improved to the point that the program was no longer necessary. From then on, the Knox County Humane Society has focused on surrendered pets, mostly cats and kittens, and helping to engage the community through adoption and other programs and public services.

Tuesdays, for example, the Humane Society hosts a wellness clinic for cats and dogs with the help of their full time veterinarian Dr. Elaine Sipka, a recent OSU grad that focused on Shelter Veterinary Medicine, hired on full time in the fall of 2016. Dr. Sipka is now on hand four days a week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday to help with public services and to help provide care to the animals. Until she was hired, Otto explained, a veterinarian visited the shelter once a week to provide care to the shelter cats. The shelter also holds spay and neuter clinics Mondays and Thursdays, Otto said.

In 2018 alone, the Knox County Humane Society saw a 17 percent increase in the number of cats it took in at 293 cats. The shelter saw an average of 24 adoptions per month with 283 of the 293 cats being adopted by the close of 2018, Otto said. On occasion, specific breed rescue groups, such as those committed to Persian cats will take on a rescue cat, Otto said. The shelter tries to get the animals out into a good home as quickly as possible, though the adoption process can take a few days, to ensure that new owners will be bringing their pet into a home with other animals that are well cared for and, if the person adopting rents a home, Otto explained, that the landlord allows pets.

Volunteers and members, Otto said, are vital to the non-profit organization. In addition to memberships and donations, the humane society, relies on grants to maintain the shelter. Recently, the humane society received a grant from the Knox County Foundation that helped fund the replacement of the original siding on the building, Otto said, something sorely needed to help make the shelter look nice and to help keep heat in and pests out. The humane society also benefits from the generosity of the community, Otto said, giving the example of a donation of cat beds, enough for each cage, to the shelter just before Christmas.

Looking to the future, Otto said, it is likely that the shelter will look to expand parts of the shelter that get cramped, including the reception area and the surgery areas, which it has slowly outgrown over the years.

“The building has certainly served us well, but it can get a little crowded in different places like in the lobby at times,” Otto said. “But there may come a time where we want to be doing some remodeling or expansion or something of that sort, again it would depend upon how such activities would enhance our ability to do what we do.”

Though the building has aided in the mission of the humane society, it is the “exemplary staff” and foreword thinking that will help the shelter through the next 25 years, Otto said.

“We’ve got a staff here now, we have Kelly Spencer who is our shelter supervisor, of course our veterinarian, a veterinary assistant and about five caregivers, and so as long as we can maintain a staff that works well together and so forth it will keep us going,” Otto said. “And certainly we like to be able to think forward and provide services to the public for pet care as well as adoptions.”


Callan Pugh: 740-397-5333 or and on Twitter, @mountvernonnews




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