Faced with the closure of the current Fulton County Humane Society building and the task of finding another, two members of the organization’s board of directors reached out Sept. 30 to the Fulton County Commissioners.
Humane Society CEO Dr. Jessica Miller and Chairman of the Board Rose Sorge told the commissioners during their regular session that the board has a tall order to fill and no idea yet how to go about it. They asked the commissioners to continue their annual funding of the Humane Society and for any help they can give with acquiring a new facility.
The current facility at 14720 County Road J has been placed for sale for $250,000 by owners Steve and Tracey Wanner, who plan to retire. “Our board members and volunteers, they’ll have to look for another facility,” Tracey Wanner said in August.
Dr. Miller, who owns and operates Healing Hearts, a veterinary mobile practice, said the Humane Society must vacate the building by the end of December.
“If we don’t find a building in the meantime…we will probably have to take a break,” she told the commissioners. “As an organization, we want to do everything we can to continue.”
Dr. Miller said the board is planning a fundraising campaign and looking into federal and state grants for purchasing a new building. She said they’ve looked into buying a home with an adequate-sized pole barn in which to conduct business, but the expense is too great for the board’s budget. She said an offer for a home and facilities in Archbold was made but the owner requested $350,000.
“We’re just reacting to this situation as best we can,” Dr. Miller said. “That kind of planning doesn’t happen overnight. And for us to figure out what is our ultimate goal for the facility – we’re just not there yet.”
The short-term goal is to find permanent or foster homes for the nine dogs and 25 cats currently on the Humane Society roster, or to work with area rescue organizations that may be able to take them. Ideally, Dr. Miller said, the board would find a temporary site to continue the process of finding adoptees and foster homes, and a place where animal transport can continue to Humane Ohio, which has spayed and neutered 1,306 dogs and cats at a low cost since 2018.
For the next month or two, meanwhile, the current building will open on Saturdays to allow for adoption and education services for the public.
County Dog Warden Brian Banister, who attended the commissioners’ session, said hundreds of dogs captured by his department – approximately 80-90% of unclaimed dogs – are sent to the Humane Society.
“With the Humane Society, especially with the close proximity that we are…it cut down on our general population numbers, because after that first 72 hours and nobody’s claimed them, we’re not still continually taking care of those dogs,” he said.
Because the announcement of the facility’s closing came so suddenly, the Humane Society is reaching out to community members for donations and ideas concerning its future.
The current facility has not been offered to the organization for sale, and Dr. Miller said, while it served its purpose, a commercial building or barn better suited to the Humane Society’s needs is preferred. She told the commissioners the space they have now is “definitely not ideal,” since the building is aged, the ventilation system is not working, no office space is available, and there has never been enough room for the cat population.
“We did our best to make space but it wasn’t the best for everybody,” she said.
The Humane Society would like to find a place where it can include an indoor/outdoor run to complement the dog kennel, rooms for the adoption process, a quarantine and sick room area, and a community room that could be rented to the public as a source of revenue, Dr. Miller added. It would also like the new facility to expand the society’s public outreach and educational services.
“As a humane society, our goal is to do the best thing for each animal that we can, realistically,” she said. That includes the board’s current use of a dog trainer.
And as part of the organization’s long-term goal, the board members asked the commissioners to continue funding a humane agent at $18,000 annually. “Even though we don’t have that long-term plan yet, that funding helps us continue,” Dr. Miller said. “At this point, in our precarious situation, continued funding will make all the difference to us.”
She said she wants the public to know it is not losing the Fulton County Humane Society. “The facility is transitioning, not closing or leaving the county,” she said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.