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Animal shelter closing

Dan Thrift/Tahoe TribuneExecutive Director Dawn Armstrong will be forced to close the doors of the Lake Tahoe Humane Society.
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Facing diminishing donations and consistent operating costs, the Lake Tahoe Humane Society will end shelter services on Magua Street and lay off its three staffers at the end of the month.

This includes longtime animal advocate Dawn Armstrong, the executive director.

“As disappointed as I am, part of me is relieved. Every day I would wake up and say to myself: ‘How are we going to get through the day?'” said Armstrong, who will volunteer for the organization while hunting for a new job.



The director said she could foresee the fate of the private nonprofit organization and helped outline a plan to keep it running through Web site operations.

The three were given notice Saturday, a few days after a board decision by the Humane Society and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.




Armstrong and the three board members figured the organization has secured the $10,000-a-month operating expense through Jan. 31.

“Ten thousand dollars is hard to come by,” she said.

The board plans to sell the property to continue to run educational programs like those that promote cruelty prevention, voluntary visitation and the benefits of spaying and neutering the animals — the primary objective of animal shelter services.

The Tahoe Paradise property with two buildings is priced at $450,000. The Humane Society has also banked about $35,000 in reserves.

“It’s like any business plan. The property is not going to sell tomorrow,” Armstrong said.

The three dogs and four adult cats now at the shelter will be adopted or transferred to another Humane Society or rescue group before Feb. 1.

“It’s always been an issue: Could this community support a shelter?” she said.

The shelter opened in 1994, closing two years later because of a lack of donations. It reopened in 2001.

It remains to be seen whether closure of one shelter will burden the one on Shakori Drive in Meyers that’s run by El Dorado County Animal Control, a separate public entity.

Statistics show that while dog populations are declining, cats have increased in numbers.

While committing to assist in the placement of animals at various organizations around the Lake Tahoe region, Armstrong said El Dorado’s homeless dogs and cats will make the priority list.

“We’re sorry to see the shelter close. It wasn’t a decision we made lightly,” Humane Society board member Judy Brown said Monday.

The shelter will offer a phone number and tape recording at (530) 577-4521 to assist in adoption efforts.

South Lake Tahoe is not alone in the nonprofit plight.

The 120-year-old S.P.C.A. in San Francisco was forced to cut its budget by 25 percent last year.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com


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