Ruth Olson: What is the Sumter Humane Society?

Published 4:30 pm Monday, April 2, 2018

The Sumter Humane Society (SHS) helps people by providing a safe haven for the stray and lost pets in our community. The shelter accepts nearly 100 dogs and cats every month from our animal control officers and owner surrenders. One-half of our budget comes from tax dollars which funds the care and feeding of an animal for five days. Donations from our local animal lovers and grants pay for all medical care (including vaccines, testing, deworming, and heartworm prevention); the rescue program, and the low cost spay/neuter of needy, community family owned pets.
The shelter is staffed 365 days a year by a small, dedicated group of people who truly care about animals. If you have lost your pet, the shelter is a safe place where they receive excellent care until you can come take them home.  If you can no longer care for your pet, the SHS does everything in their power to find them a new home. Abandoned animals receive vaccines, testing, are bathed, treated for fleas, receive nail trims, and are transported to local vets for advanced needs. What you would do for your beloved pet, happens every single day at the shelter.
On a typical morning, the dogs are released from inside the building at 8 a.m. and go into our outside runs where they revel in the sunshine and fresh air. The inside is thoroughly cleaned and freshened. Cats are handled every day and their pens are wiped out, litter completely changed, and they receive fresh food and water.  For many of these animals this is the first time in their lives they have enough to eat. The first time they are not dirty, hot, cold, or huddling in the rain.   For some of them the first time in their lives they are touched by a human every single day. We teach our dogs to walk on a leash and in the afternoons they go out in the grass for training. We also have a large “play yard” where the canines can run and chase tennis balls. After their walk the dogs come back inside to clean pens, full bowls of food, fresh water, and beds to relax in.  Over and over we receive in terrified, skinny, sick canines and within three to four weeks they are sleek, happy, and walking out the door to new lives. We do that for them! When you walk through the shelter you see wagging tails and smiling faces, and hear meows and purrs. They are all so happy to have a clean, safe place to live.
What about the sick, elderly, and injured? Mange, flea allergies, heartworms, upper respiratory, ringworm, skin diseases, injuries — we fix all of that! Our local vets are instrumental in diagnosing and recommending treatment. We have excellent rescues that will help us find new homes for the elderly. Others help us treat heartworm disease and those dogs go on to live long happy lives. We do receive in many aggressive dogs, feral cats, and severely injured and ill animals. In each case one of our staff accompanies the animal to the vet and stays with them to the end. Although this pet is no longer in pain, or afraid, it is the hardest part of our job, the part we struggle with the most.
Over and over we hear people say they feel so bad for the animals at the “pound.” We are NOT the pound. The Sumter Humane Society is a family of individuals that has a LOT of pets. They all are cared for as our own. They all receive love. Newborns are taken home by a staff member at night to be fed every two hours. The severely emaciated young, and many of the small dogs are also fostered by shelter staff and although we cannot save them all, their end of life is warm and they are not alone. We do not take our mission lightly.
So, when we come to work and find a pitiful animal thrown out in front of our door, or animal control pulls up with another pet, we say “thank goodness you came to the Sumter Humane Society.” Now little dog or sweet kitty cat you have a chance for a long, happy life with a new family who will love you forever. That is the Sumter Humane Society.

Ruth Olson is shelter director for the Sumter Humane Society, Americus.