Animal shelter up and running
It is not the norm for dogs and cats to live together in harmony, but it is the case now that the Lake Tahoe Humane Society animal shelter is open.
The shelter opened its doors to cats March 20. Due to a faulty heating system in the dog kennel, canines were not admitted until April 3.
The Humane Society relies totally on private funding. The shelter at 1063 Magua St. in Meyers first opened in August 1994 and closed in 1996. It was scheduled to reopen at the same location in September 2000, but did not because of lack of funding.
“I have some anxiety (about opening,) of course, because you want to keep open,” said Humane Society Executive Director Dawn Armstrong. “On one hand you’re excited and on the other we don’t want to close again. We have been very thoughtful and very conservative in opening the shelter again.”
The Humane Society also faced problems finding qualified staffing for the animal shelter. Between June and September of 2000, three applicants were approved for the position of shelter manager and all three backed out, Armstrong said.
“It is not acceptable for (an applicant) to say ‘I have loved animals all my life,’ ” Armstrong said. “You have to have some professional animal training. We would like to see some kind of professional certification.”
Armstrong said the process leading up to the opening has been difficult for her. Mounting community expectations to open the shelter put a lot of pressure on her, she said.
“Once you get involved and you understand the need, I think it is like fly paper,” Armstrong said. “I have had a lot of trials and tribulations but you can’t walk away from the need. It is very fulfilling to see the building open with animals in it. It was very hard to see it empty.”
The shelter is capable of housing 18 dogs and 48 cats.
“We purposely designed it to take more cats than dogs because of the sheer number of cats people give up and don’t spay or neuter,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said she has aspirations to increase the number of animals the Humane Society shelter can hold, but stressed it is more important to make sure the facilities remain in place before expanding.
“Our No. 1 job is to see what we have,” Armstrong said. “It means establishing an endowment and getting people involved.”
Armstrong said she wants the Humane Society to be more active in maintaining the shelter. She said the primary goal for the shelter is to find homes for pets.
“We’re going to be much more proactive,” Armstrong said. “You are expected by your donors to make as much of an effort as you can. Nobody likes to put down animals.”
Likewise, Armstrong stresses that the shelter will be careful about which animals it accepts.
“We’re not going to bring over animals who we know will never be adopted,” Armstrong said. “We don’t take strays. If we come to work and there is a dog at the gate we call animal control. We can’t take those dogs. There is a process people have to go through to surrender their pets. Our objective is to get these critters in and out of here on a responsible basis.”
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