Jennifer Runyon, president of the Greenbrier Humane Society (GHS), which operates the county’s animal shelter facility, presented a detailed annual report to the Greenbrier County Commission at the meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 28, stating that of the 531 dogs and 853 cats surrendered to the facility last year, 1,158 animals found “forever homes.”
“Our goal,” Runyon said, “is to save as many of these lives as possible through our adoption and rescue programs.”
A significant milestone was reached on Feb. 20, she said, which marked the three-year anniversary for not euthanizing a dog for space at the shelter. In addition to local adopters, the GHS works with several out-of-state rescue partners to find homes for the animals and keep euthanization rates low.
“We cannot call ourselves a ‘no kill’ facility,” Runyon said, “because we still euthanize; 293 cats and dogs were euthanized in 2016 due to aggression and sickness.”
She said the success of the spay and neuter program also reduces the number of unwanted cats and dogs, and thus, reduces the number of animals surrendered by residents. Since 2009, a total of 18,200 dogs and cats were spayed or neutered, all at no cost to the county.
Runyon said two new initiatives have also been successful: the micro-chipping program has proved to be the number-one method of quickly reuniting a lost animal to its owner, resulting in fewer calls to the animal control officer (ACO); and secondly, by using their social media site to post animal control intakes, owners have been able to redeem their lost animals. During the first month alone, they were able to successfully reunite two animals with their owners.
Additionally, Runyon reported, the Humane Society was a central donation site for pets and pet owners affected by the June 2016 flood disaster. Supplies were collected, stored, and distributed to areas hardest hit by the flooding, and dozens of animals were successfully reunited with their owners. GHS employees, board members and core volunteers worked around the clock to unload, inventory and store donations. For weeks, there was a constant flow of trucks, trailers and semis delivering donations for both pets and humans. Working with the emergency management teams, displaced animals were housed safely and cared for while either waiting for their owners to claim them, or if left unclaimed, to adopt them into safe and loving homes.
As a result, there were unbudgeted operational expenses for overtime, vet bills and medical supplies. GHS received a check for $24,619.51 from FEMA covering those expenses.
In closing her report, Runyon presented the commission with the Humane Society’s 2017-2018 budget request for $200,000.
Commissioner Mike McClung said, in response to the budget figure, “The ACO, if the commission chooses to continue the position, has only brought in 217 dogs over the course of the year. The cost of housing them for five days, plus the cost of euthanasia, if needed, runs an average vet bill of $100 per dog.” That means, for 217 dogs, the cost to the county comes to $21,700. The Humane Society’s payroll accounts for 72 percent of the $200,000 budget request to run the animal shelter, he said, which, he added, does not include the salary of the ACO.
“The GHS does a lot of good work,” McClung said, and he affirmed that he would support the GHS budget request this year, unlike every previous year he’s served on the commission, in which he has opposed their annual budget request.
Referring to himself as “always the bad guy,” he stated his position is based on the loss of coal severance funding to the county, which means the commission has had to stop supporting many other non-profit agencies, and when the county did support those other agencies, the cost for all of them was less than the $200,000 the Humane Society requests each year. “We need to realize we are supporting the operations of the Humane Society,” McClung said.
Commissioner Lowell Rose assured Runyon that she should not anticipate a big battle this year over the GHS budget funding request.
In other business:
• With an accumulation of what commission President Woody Hanna called “huge bills” resulting from last June’s floods, the county must borrow $1.5 million to meet a 25 percent match requirement with FEMA. Pending legal confirmation from county attorney Patrick Via, the commission approved drafting proposals to present to lending institutions.
• Region 4 Planning and Development Division Director John Tuttle presented documents for the commission to approve and sign for the ongoing Sam Black water line extension project. Tuttle said customer response rate, currently at 50 percent, in signing up for the water line has been slow. The project requires at least 80 percent participation, he said.