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Humane Society of Moab Valley
Heralds Success in Long Term
Animal Control Solutions

By Carrie Mossien

Humane Society
435-259-HUMANE (4862)

When a handful of local animal lovers began keeping statistics five years ago nearly half of the dogs picked up by animal control officers in Grand County were euthanized. This year, that same group and then some–widely known as the Humane Society of Moab Valley – reports only 7 percent of the dogs picked up are euthanized. Not only that, the problem of having to bring in loose or unwanted dogs has itself diminished by a third, from 148 in 1999 to 100 in 2003.

This is the bottom line of an ongoing success story of one of Moab’s most active non-profit organizations, the Humane Society of Moab Valley.

The figures for cats, while less impressive, takes into consideration a feral cat population previously uncounted. The Humane Society’s Tricia Gundlach says that trapping, sterilizing and releasing feral cats will do more in the long run to reduce the population than picking them up and killing them. The void promotes more breeding, she says, while releasing sterile cats doesn’t allow for breeding but doesn’t promote it either.

The Humane Society of Moab Valley was begun by local real estate agent Judy Powers with a small ad in the Ad-Vertiser asking for help with foster parenting and finding homes for healthy, stray animals that would otherwise be euthanized by an animal control program that had no other way of dealing with the growing problem. Judy and a handful of others began housing animals themselves, slowly enlisting the help of other like-minded people in the community. Today the Humane Society holds “Adoption Days” every two weeks and has eight temporary shelters, or foster homes, where healthy animals are kept by generous volunteers until permanent homes can be found. Occasionally, when there is an overflow and adoptions are low, animals are taken to the Humane Society in Salt Lake City, again by volunteers with carriers donated or purchased with donations. Many of those animals find permanent homes.

In 2003:
• 65 dogs and 66 cats were rescued, fostered and adopted out by the Society.
• Society volunteers facilitated another 20 adoptions directly from Animal Control to the public.
• 40 animals were transported to the Salt Lake Humane Society.
• 120 Moab Valley foster animals and 250 feral cats were spayed and neutered.
• 167 families received assistance with low cost spay and neuter programs for their pets.
• Over 180 new Humane Society members were recruited and $5,000 was raised in new memberships.
• Over $11,000 was raised in grants, and $30,000 in donations.
• 20 new volunteers were recruited.

These statistics are bolstering current efforts to construct a permanent animal shelter in Moab, which according to Tricia is a necessary next step in local animal control.

“Fostering is difficult to do long term,” she said. “It’s stressful on animals and their people to be introduced to a new home for short periods of time. A successful fostering program would be to have an animal for a year, let it get comfortable, and then find a home for it. A shelter would allow us to have a more effective fostering program.”

That’s because a shelter, as currently planned, would have 24 cat cages and 13 dog runs, as well as office space for the Humane Society and an animal evaluation facility that would allow families to get acquainted with their adoptee apart from other animals in the shelter.

“In a separate space people can get a better idea of an animal’s temperament,” Tricia said.

“We have visited shelters in Colorado and Utah, and we have an architect who has donated time to making the plans,” she said. Moab City and Grand County have committed funds and possibly property on Kane Creek Boulevard to the effort, and an interested donor has offered $40,000 to help with construction costs.

“It’s very exciting, and it’s really going to be a vast improvement,” Tricia said. “We’ll be more centralized and can better utilize our volunteer hours. We’ll be able to put more energy into solving the problem and not just handling it.”

The Humane Society of Moab Valley currently has 30 active volunteers and another 20 people who help out during special events. One volunteer, Karen Wise, cares for 60 to 70 percent of the dogs fostered by the Humane Society, and donates “easily 75 hours a month,” Tricia said. Moab City Animal Control officers Randy Zimmerman (Animal Control Officer of the Year, 2003, for the State) and George Koskinen, are ardent supporters of the Society and work closely with its volunteers. Local businesses – Family Drug, City Market, Chevron and Turner Lumber - have been generous with their space, offering it on a regular basis for adoption days.

This month marks one of two times a year the Humane Society offers a 50 to 70 percent discount on spay and neuter certificates. Local veterinarians participate in the program March 15 through 31. Vouchers, and further information may be obtained by calling the Humane Society at 259-HUMANE (4862). Office hours are Monday, Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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