“Not to hurt our humble brethren the animals is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission—to be of service to them whenever they require it.”
-Saint Francis of Assisi
A town’s Humane Society can tell a person a lot about the town itself. It can tell you if its citizens care about animal welfare. It can tell you how people feel about animals in need. In many ways a Humane Society is a barometer of the humanity of its community. The Heartland Humane Society (HHS) tells me a lot about Corvallis. HHS is a comprehensive resource that does not exist in many towns, and it is a safe, caring alternative for lost or unwanted pets. HHS services over 2,000 animals per year, and with over 500 active volunteers, its reciprocal relationship with the community is what makes it such a unique Humane Society. Each day community members come to HHS to help walk dogs and give animals affection and open play, while veterinarians from around the county – including OSU – take turns caring for sick animals and performing spay/neuter surgeries, and in some cases life-saving procedures. Animal Crackers, the pet supply store on Kings, also offers itself as a satellite adoption center for cats.
HHS is an open admission facility, which means they will not turn any animal away – regardless of situation (abandonment, relinquishment, health, temperament, or found stray), and they service all of Benton County. This is distinguishing because many shelters are able to choose which animals they accept based upon space, health, or adoptability, and many shelters restrict their admissions based on city boundaries – not county.
HHS is 90 percent self-funded through donations, volunteer services, the Heartland Thrift Store, and fundraising. Its foster care program is one of the ways in which volunteers make a huge difference in the lives of HHS animals. Foster care is for animals that are either too infirm or too young to stay at the shelter; last year over 150 volunteers helped care for 689 animals that were prepared for adoption, but unable to live at the HHS facility. They also have a hospice foster care program for animals that cannot be cared for by their owners and would otherwise have to be euthanized.
HHS is also home to a variety of animal care camps and educational opportunities. The Humane Education program works with children aged preschool to college, and collaborates with OSU, 4-H, Children’s Farm, Talented Animals, local schools, and Birds of Prey. There are also on-site programs for kids. The “Kindness Kids Club” and “Circle Kids Club” are volunteer opportunities for youth aged 8 to 15 where they can learn about animal care and socialization, and “Camp Catnip” is a spring and summer break camp that offers kids hands-on education about animal topics such as beekeeping, dog training, and farm animals.
HHS has been at the SW Twin Oaks Circle location for 13 years, but with so many animals to service it is already beginning to outgrow the space – this is where the foster care program is especially critical. Also, because of its open admission policy, HHS does occasionally have to make the difficult decision to euthanize an animal that cannot be adopted – usually these reasons are related to health or behavior/temperament. Thanks to its commitment to animal welfare and all of the dedicated volunteers and doctors in our community who support HHS’s efforts, the rate of euthanasia has declined steadily over the past several years, and the save rate has gone up from 50 percent in 2005 to 89 percent in 2012. HHS continues to move in the direction of its goal to help all the animals that come through the door to find their “forever home,” and as a community that supports these efforts, residents can become a part of the solution. For more information about how to help, visit http://www.heartlandhumane.org.
In my hometown there was a euphemism among parents about misbehaved dogs and household pets that were no longer the center of a six-year-old’s universe. With knowing nods, you’d hear dads talking on the soccer sidelines: “That dog/cat/gerbil, went to go live on a farm where there is more room for him to run around. He’ll be happier there.” At the time it seemed plausible since there were a lot of farms in our town, but somehow these farms were always nameless, far away, and prohibited visitors. Among the maladjusted miscreants on my street were “Daisy” – a Dalmatian escape artist, “Princess” – a cat eating Chow mix, “Mittens” – a curtain shredding tabby, “Boxer” – an ill-tempered goose, and “Baloo,” my beloved giant chinchilla that I insisted run free range around the house, and refused to let be outside during winter.
It was years later when a neighbor’s older brother was feeling spiteful during a game of marbles and explained to the younger kids that there was no “farm.” He didn’t elaborate, but the implication hung over that summer afternoon. The youngest of us speculated later over dripping popsicles:
“If there’s no farm, where did they go?”
“Your dad has a gun! Did he shoot your dog?”
“No way! What would he have done with the body?”
We slowly met each other’s gazes at the thought of Mr. McAllister digging pet graves in the middle of the night.
I regret the casual ignorance of animal welfare that I think was cultural, and not limited to my small town back in the 1970s. It still happens that people don’t factor in breed before they get a dog, for example. When my husband and I were interviewing to adopt a Hound-mix and a Pointer-mix at the Boulder Humane Society, we practically had to show them our muddied hiking boots to prove these dogs would not be left inside all day. It’s the first we had heard of a “Temperament Match Interview,” but once we saw how much exercise these dogs needed it made perfect sense, and I recalled Daisy and Princess, who spent most of their days languishing in living rooms. I will never know what destiny these beloved pets met back then, but that is what makes me interested in what I can learn about my community by visiting its Humane Society. Thank you Heartland, for being a voice for those that cannot speak, and for striving towards the higher mission to be of service to animals.
By Maria Murphy