June 22, 2006 : 12:00 AM
A Vermont animal shelter that was founded in the late 1800s today is hanging on by a shoestring. Officials are appealing to the public to help keep the shelter open.
The financial stress at the Windham County Humane Society began in December 2005 when the shelter took in 40 animals, including dozens of dogs, some cats and two sheep, from a hoarding situation. “Up until that point we were doing fine,” shelter executive director Susan Holmquist said in a phone interview.
When the shelter, in Brattleboro, was asked by law enforcement to take in the animals from an abusive and neglectful situation in nearby Townshend, officials agreed.
The animals were seized because they were kept without enough food and water in an 800-square-foot house, many in kennels and crates that were too small for them.
“We were requested by the (Windham County) sheriff’s department to remove these animals,” Holmquist said. “We have no contract with that town, so, therefore, no funding from them.
“We were pushed to the limit financially and physically. Our expenses to date are over $80,000 just from this case alone. We’re still getting vet bills.”
One of the dogs was pregnant and many had to be boarded at a veterinary clinic because the shelter didn’t have the space to house them all. The shelter is equipped for 16 dogs and 35 cats. All the animals were spayed, neutered and medically treated at the shelter’s expense.
To offset the costs, the shelter’s hours have been shortened, along with decreased staff hours and pay for its five employees. On June 12, the shelter closed its doors on Mondays and cut hours on other days. It remains open from noon to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. On Saturdays the hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The humane society, which started in a barn before the turn of the 20th century, recently received $30,000 in donations, but that still leaves $50,000 in unpaid bills, Holmquist said, forcing the shelter to cut back. Also, Science Diet regularly donates food, which, Holmquist said, “is a tremendous help.”
While the shelter could use supplies, such as longer leashes (9 and 10 feet), jackets for workers, and an endless supply of paper towels, “What we really need right now is money,” Holmquist noted. “It’s really the funding, unfortunately, that we’re in desperate need of.”
The humane society was legally awarded custody of the seized animals in March. Since then, all but five dogs and two cats have been adopted. The shelter typically adopts out between 550 and 600 dogs and cats each year.
Please Help If You Can.
Windham County Humane Society (WCHS)
P.O, Box 397,
Brattleboro, Vermont 05302
Story by Cathy Scott