HOBART— Big changes are coming to the Humane Society of Hobart — starting with the nonprofit’s transition to a no-kill shelter, with new intake and medical care protocol for sick or injured animals.
Interim Executive Director Jennifer Webber, who stepped up in May at the request of the society’s board members, said she conducted an organizational health assessment that put the nonprofit’s staffing culture, policy and procedures under the microscope with the goal of improving quality of care.
“It gave us benchmarks and set the course for improvements,” said Webber, formerly the chief operating officer of the Humane Society Calumet Area.
The assessment uncovered, among other things, vaccinations upon intake, swift diagnoses for diseases and illnesses, spay and neutering upon adoption, separation of sick and health pets, and socializing/behavior modification were not happening in most cases, Webber said.
"It was unacceptable," she said.
Big changes happening, come with a cost
The local humane society has had its share of critics over the years, but Webber wants the Hobart community to know big changes are happening, and they come with a cost.
For starters, the shelter is transitioning to a no-kill shelter. In July 2017 alone, the shelter euthanized 96 animals — an alarming number, but now have euthanized only two since May 15, Webber said.
Now, the Humane Society of Hobart is committed to a 91 percent live release rate, qualifying the agency as no-kill, only euthanizing animals at an owner’s request of a humane disposition and in extreme medical circumstances, Webber said.
“The community of Hobart, I’ve learned, they want an organization that operates in a humane way, caring for the sick and injured. And they deserve that,” Webber said.
To achieve no-kill status, the society is partnering with new foster parents and other animal welfare organizations and is now a member of the Indiana Coalition of Animal Rescue Efforts and the regional ICARE group, which encompasses Indiana's 1st Congressional District.
New intake and isolation areas are being rolled out, aimed at limiting contact among sick animals that come off the streets with healthy ones already housed at the shelter.
“The building was not separated into two sides, so we had healthy and sick together initially,” Webber said.
New behavior, enrichment programs added
The shelter also has implemented new behavior and enrichment programs, including structured socializing among dogs, to increase quality of care and improve behaviors, said Jamie Peyton, president for the Humane Society Board of Directors.
“Before, it was, ‘Let’s get them fed, cleaned, fed, cleaned,’” Peyton said.
On a recent Friday afternoon, shelter care providers Danielle Harmston and Sierra Vasquez walked two dogs to a gated area adjacent to the shelter and removed their leashes.
In a flash, Spuds, a brown-and-white terrier mix, and Sam, an American bulldog pointer mix, rolled around in the dirt and took turns chasing one another up and down the length of the field.
“The way it worked before is if the dog showed aggression, they wouldn’t socialize them and didn’t take the time to see if it was fear or just because they came in that way. So before these awesome changes, they were put down,” Vasquez said.
Socializing is part of the Humane Society of Hobart’s new commitment to the providing the animals they care for with the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ “five freedoms” — freedom from hunger and thirst, discomfort, pain, injury and disease, fear and distress, and freedom to express normal behavior “by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.”
The society works with the police and fire departments to provide numerous animal control services, has authority to issue citations for animal-related violations, and holds municipal contracts with New Chicago, Lake Station and Hobart.
Those municipal contracts means the shelter has to accept whatever comes through its doors — “Dangerous or not. Parvo or not,” Webber said. The added medical costs alone is not sustainable without the community’s help.
Webber said these changes come with additional costs, particularly for new staffing levels and medical expenses. The medical expense of saving more lives could potentially close the society’s doors.
That’s why the society is launching a new fourth-quarter fundraising campaign called "Be a Lifesaver for the Humane Society of Hobart!”
Unlike GoFundMe and other fundraising websites, Facebook's donation system doesn't collect a fee when nonprofits raise funds. To donate there, click the "Donate" button on the Humane Society of Hobart's Facebook page.