NEW ULM - The Brown County Humane Society (BCHS) has been a mainstay in New Ulm for more than 30 years, tirelessly caring for homeless cats and dogs and seeking adoptive families for them.
The volunteer-only organization boasts 70 workers. All donations go entirely to the organization's operations and costs.
BCHS typically houses the Minnesota Board of Animal Health's recommended level of 10 dogs and 45 cats for a facility of its size. However, it regularly deals with influxes of animals far beyond those levels. BCHS houses those animals despite its size limits and quickly brings the numbers down to a more manageable size with special actions like reduced prices for adoption.
Brown County Humane Society volunteer and manager of the cat department Theresa Grams holds Rollo which is one of a few kittens at the BCHS that has Feline Leukemia. These cats are not a health risk to humans, according to Grams, and are free to adopt.
The most dramatic example BCHS dealt with was when several factors resulted in 102 cats being housed in its facility in late 2011.
The organization also has a $100,000 annual operating budget that is entirely donations, except for $8,000 received from Brown County for assisting with animal management.
Gerald Woodley, co-chair for the BCHS, said the strong support of the community provides adequate funds to keep high quality operations.
Woodley said BCHS is an important organization for Brown County, filling multiple roles such as assisting police departments with animal control, providing health benefits from the positive relationships between people and pets and caring for the animals.
For public safety, Woodley said BCHS is the main agency to take over responsibility for animals found in places outside towns. Without the BCHS, the responding police agency would need to be responsible for caring and housing the strays that are encountered in animal complaints.
"We help keep a burden off the sherriff's department," said Woodley.
Woodley said the ownership of an animal has been proven repeatedly in studies to provide health benefits for individuals. The benefits range from reduced blood pressure to increased exercise due to the owner walking the pet.
Woodley said the animals also serve as great tools for parents in educating their children. Ownership of an animal was a strong way to teach the importance of responsibility. Similary, he said the fact that animals age faster than humans can be used to teach children about the cycle of life..
The most obvious benefit has been in providing humane conditions for animals through health care and eventual placement in a home, instead of the animals being abandoned or indefinitely confined in a cage.
BCHS also provides an interview process when placing an animal to guarantee the animal and the potential owners find the right fit.
Every two years, BCHS places between 667 to 904 animals in homes.
BCHS has taken a leadership role in pushing animal initiatives for the entire county.
The most prominent initiative is the organization's work to educate the public on the importance of spaying or neutering their pets to control animal populations, particularly with the problem of feral cat populations.
Part of the initiative has included working with statewide organizations to provide assistance on the cost of these operations for low-income households that adopt an animal. The initiative helps improve public health concerns.
BCHS members participate in locally pushing national initiatives. This year, members worked on raising awareness about pitbulls and dispelling myths about the breed to improve the placement rate of the dogs.
Looking into the future, the BCHS is focusing on its numerous fundraising operations .
The major fundraisers are a "Jail and Bail" event to be held in March or April, a dog walk in August and a beer and wine tasting in November.The organization also hosts a variety of small scale fundraisers.
BCHS is also looking to maximize its new membership in MnPAW, a statewide association of animal humane societies that work together to mutually help with operations.
Woodley said MnPAW?has already been very helpful with problems like animal overflow by transferring some of the excess animals to other humane societies. It also can be utilized to gain the advise of other humane societies on how to deal with new challenges, such as a disease breaking out among animals in a facility.
BCHS does not have any initiatives planned for 2013 outside of its usual spay and neuter awareness, but more would likely come up as the year progresses.
People interested in helping out at the BCHS can contact it at (507-359-2312. It also has a website at www.brownchumanes.org/index-2.html
The organization is willing to accept volunteer help of any sort, ranging from working at the animal shelter to cash donations to donations of pet food.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at email@example.com)