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Humane Society to give 'state of the shelter' report this week

Sue Lea of Kandiyohi volunteers Friday and spends some quality time with the dogs, like Eve, at the Hawk Creek Animal Shelter. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- A "state of the shelter" report will be given at the annual meeting this week of the Humane Society of Kandiyohi and Meeker Counties.

The Humane Society has been working with a consultant this past year on building its organizational capacity and will share the findings and recommendations, said Steve Gardner, president of the board.

"We'll let folks know what's in store for the next year and some of the new things we'll be doing," he said.

The annual meeting is at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the community room at the Willmar Public Library.

It is open to Humane Society members, donors and anyone from the public who has an interest in the organization or wants to learn more.

Members plan to take care of annual business such as electing officers and appointing new board members. Most of the meeting, however, will be devoted to the consultant's report. The Humane Society received a grant this past year from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to bring in a consultant to review its strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.

The review comes at a critical time for the Humane Society. Over the past two years the organization has been making the transition from a part-time, volunteer group to a full-time shelter with staff, programs and services that address local needs.

One of the most positive findings from the consultant was that "our programming is good," Gardner said. This includes the quality of animal care at the Hawk Creek Animal Shelter, the adoption rate and outreach activities such as low-cost vaccination and spay-neuter clinics.

Finances remain the biggest challenge, he said.

Expenses rose when the Humane Society opened the new Hawk Creek Animal Shelter in 2009. The shelter is larger and can take in more animals, but the increased capacity also has led to higher costs.

The addition of Meeker County also expanded the shelter's catchment area, Gardner said. "With those increases, our expenses have been increasing at a high rate. That's just part and parcel of serving two counties now."

A final tally wasn't available Friday, but shelter staff members said more than 1,600 animals have come through the doors in 2011. In 2010, it was 1,470.

Gardner said the next one to three years will be devoted to building a more sustainable organization.

"We're not talking just financially, although that's a big component," he said. "We'll be talking about transparency and making more friends -- making sure that people know that what we're doing is making a difference."

A key goal will be closing the gap between operating expenses and the revenue the shelter can reliably project.

"It's our goal to eliminate that funding gap next year, primarily through building our base and asking for what we need," Gardner said. "We have some very ambitious goals. The board is really excited about this new direction we're going."

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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