We decided to take a trip out to the Humane Society of East Texas (HSOET). I’ll admit, part of me was dreading it. I was expecting to see kennel after kennel of sad faces, deplorable conditions, and I was bracing myself for the probability that all the animals I was to fall in love with would have a fast approaching expiration date. I left the facility with a MUCH different perspective. Mainly because I learned on our trip that since the beginning of 2008 HSOET has become a no-kill shelter. More on that later.
As we walked into the adoption room entrance, we were greeted by the friendly staff, then Gayle Helms, HSOET Director, came to lead us on a tour of the shelter. First up was the Cattery. The Cattery is the cat room, obviously. I was expecting to see a cold, gray room with wire cages lined up on either side of the wall filled with pitiful faces of sad, lonely cats with eyes pleading to take them home. What I saw instead was down right shocking. The cats have what I can only describe as a kitty-cat fantasy play land. It’s an open room with places for the cats to climb, hide, jump, play, or lay in the sun. The cats have free roam of the Cattery, and are able to interact with each other as much as they please. There is room in the Cattery for 25 cats, but there were only about six cats during our visit.
Next, Gayle led us through sort of an over-flow room which houses the small dogs. Since the dog kennels are at capacity, HSOET did a little creative re-arranging to make room for a few smaller dogs inside. Past the over-flow room is the main dog kennels. There are enough kennels to house about 100 dogs. Each dog has its own bed, and the kennels are all heated. HSOET employees do a great job keeping the kennels clean, and all the dogs seemed so happy. Each animal has a name, and is treated with loving affection by the staff members. Though the goal is to find loving, forever homes for these dogs and cats, Gayle admits that it’s impossible not to form connections with the animals, especially those who stay for awhile.
Revenue for the shelter comes from adoption fees, surrender fees, donations, and Cause for the Paws, HSOET’s annual fundraiser held by Miranda Lambert and her Humane Society adoptee, Delilah. Adoption fees are $130 for dogs and $115 for cats, and the fee includes spay or neutering and full vaccinations. The Cause for the Paws event is held annually at Villa Di Felicita, and features great music, wine tasting, delicious food, and live and silent auctions. The proceeds of the event go directly to the shelter and make up a huge portion of the Humane Society’s revenues. Last year the fundraiser brought in $120,000! Gayle says the event is absolutely imperative for operations to continue at the shelter. Without it they would be forced to close their doors. Much of the Humane Society’s revenues used to come from city and county animal control contracts, but in early 2008 when the shelter decided, because of ethical reasons, to become a no-kill facility, they were forced to forego the near 40% of their revenue that came from these animal control contracts. In addition to the revenue lost by the non-renewal of these contracts, it seems our dwindling economy is also making an impact on animal adoptions. For the month of October, the shelter had 63 adoptions, down from an average of about 100 a month.
Though monetary donations are always greatly needed and appreciated, there are other things the shelter needs to run smoothly. These items include dry adult dog food, dry puppy chow, dry kitten chow, dry laundry detergent, liquid dish soap, bleach, fabric softener, sheets, paper towels, blankets, large bath towels, and dog leashes and collars. Luckily, local big box retailers Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Target are kind enough to donate all broken bags of dog food and litter to the shelter, but even so, more food is always needed. Arguably the single most important thing we can donate is our SUPPORT as individuals and as a community. Please, go take a look at the shelter. Take a moment to meet the staff and the animals. It is a far cry from the heartbreaking scenario I was envisioning. It is a warm, loving shelter that provides either temporary homes, or in some cases forever homes to animals who are not adopted.
The Humane Society of East Texas also offers opportunities for volunteers to come out and help. The first Sunday of every month is volunteer orientation, and volunteers are encouraged to come out and help exercise the dogs and interact with the animals. One of the cool programs Gayle told us about is Hearts and Harmony, which is a program for at-risk teens to work with at-risk dogs and together they can teach each other valuable lessons in obedience, discipline, and respect.
We would like to say many, many thanks to Gayle and all the others at HSOET for inviting us in and showing us around. I feel like I learned SO much from visiting the shelter, and I hope I am able to pass on this knowledge to others. After our visit, I left feeling good knowing there are such wonderful people in Tyler doing such wonderful things for our four-legged Tylerites.
Donations can be made online at http://www.hsoet.org/donate/index.php
The Humane Society of East Texas
1823 CR 386
Tyler, TX 75708