Gae Broadwater

Like Paula Moore ("Community, Humane Society must commit to new shelter," Thursday, July 18) and countless others who have posted on The State Journal website and on social media, I have followed the commentary being expressed about the proposed plan for a new Humane Society shelter. I am moved to offer yet one more perspective. 

I have more than 30 years of experience working in the area of community development, particularly with small nonprofit organizations and limited-resource groups and audiences. 

What I consider more significant is my volunteer work with the Franklin County Humane Society (FCHS) for the past seven years. Because of the nature of my volunteer role, I step foot inside the current shelter at least three times a week in addition to engaging with the community at large, which adds up to more than 500 volunteer hours annually. 

I am able to observe firsthand the environment in which miracles are performed on a daily basis. At the top of the list is when cats and dogs are adopted into caring homes. And as with so many other situations, there is much more below the surface than above; if you have not visited FCHS, I encourage you to do so.

In recent years, FCHS has implemented quality control measures that ensure both its shelter management and fiduciary responsibilities are being met. The space limitations of the existing shelter are critical (I am not going to address the flooding issues).

The area where visitors can inquire about adoptions, assistance for a sick or injured animal or end-of-life decisions for their pets is not adequate. The rooms where surgeries are prepped and performed are sorely lacking. The dog kennels offer little comfort in extreme weather conditions — hot or cold. Cat room space is at a premium, which causes a great deal of stress for them. And yet, the FCHS staff works tirelessly to assure these animals are cared for in the best possible way. 

Live-release rates have improved tremendously — that means cats and dogs are finding homes rather than lingering in the shelter or being euthanized. All of these things are being accomplished within the budgetary mandate established by the FCHS board and vigilant oversight of the shelter manager.  

FCHS receives 1,800-1,900 animals annually from the public and animal control. Grants are routinely applied for to help subsidize the costs of community spay/neuter initiatives, urgent care for injured animals, and vaccination programs. In 2018, 1,020 were adopted, 221 were reclaimed by owners and 253 were transferred to other rescues; 518 community spay/neuter packages and 350 Community Rabies vaccinations were purchased by the public; and 310 city licenses were sold. 

Additionally, for the past five years, TNR provided spay/neuter surgeries and vaccinations for more than 400 per year (2,800 cats over the past seven years) and is virtually self-sustaining without any funding from the city or county.     

So it is troubling to me when someone of Moore’s caliber asserts that “if the problems I have heard of are indeed true, then changes must be made.” What problems is she referring to? She goes on to imply there is “waste and inefficiency related to the operation of the shelter,” again without explanation. 

To allege problems without evidence or examples seems disingenuous to me. Comments, such as these by Moore and others in the same vein, indicate to me that people do not understand what is required to operate a humane animal shelter, and particularly the one we are fortunate to have in Franklin County.  

The Association of Shelter Veterinarians has established guidelines for "Standards of Care in Animal Shelters." These guidelines were prominent in the three-year effort to develop the proposed shelter plan. It is not based on a “wish book” list of items; rather, what the proposal responds to is the kind of shelter we need to meet the demand for services now and for the next 50 years. 

The design committee visited other shelter sites, met with local officials in various communities and worked with a nationally recognized firm to develop a plan based on approved shelter management standards. If you have not viewed the plan, with revisions made at the request of the city and county, I encourage you to do so. You can locate it on the Franklin County Humane Society home page, https://www.fchsanimals.org/. To suggest the shelter design committee’s recommendation lacked preparation and expertise is insulting.

The Frankfort City Commission and Franklin County Fiscal Court have an opportunity to be leaders in animal welfare in our commonwealth. FCHS will be poised to leverage additional resources to pay for the proposed new shelter once our local governments approve the proposed funding plan. 

Foundations and other grant-awarding agencies no longer want to “go first” when it comes to building a financial plan for the shelter. These organizations expect to see that local communities are willing to pledge support for such endeavors before they are willing to share their resources to secure a project’s life. What is lost in many of the analyses of the proposed plan is that both government entities are being asked to commit to authorizing the funding over a three-year period, not all at once. 

I am hopeful our elected and appointed officials will be able to work with the Franklin County Humane Society to fund the plan as proposed. To do less would be a loss for our community, our commonwealth and the homeless animals in need of our care. #FundTheShelter.

Gae Broadwater is a Franklin County resident and chair of the FCHS TNR Committee. She consults with nonprofit organizations in planning, evaluation and report writing. She is an adjunct faculty member in Kentucky State University’s public administration program.

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