Board members for the Pratt Area Humane Society reported good news Monday to the Pratt County Commission.
With the county's additional support of $6,000 annually, along with fund-raisers, donations and grants, the Society has paid off debt incurred in putting up the new shelter in 2008 and is on track to meet requirements from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
The additional funds allowed them to set aside all donations and memorials for shelter improvements, according to board chair Karen Detwiler. One of the first actions was to take off the corrugated fiberglass from the kennel area and replace it with solid plastic panels designed for animal care.
A new epoxy floor will be installed over the entire kennel area and cat room the week of Aug. 12 and new kennels for half the shelter will be installed soon after that.
Animals will be moved out of the shelter during renovations, and the plan is that they will be placed in foster care, Detwiler said.
The next phase of the project will be to install new kennels in the west half of the shelter.
Commissioner Glenna Borho questioned why the work was necessary in a shelter built in 2008. Many of the items were reused from the old shelter that was condemned by the state in the wake of the Greensburg tornado that brought an influx of new animals.
Chain link fencing is not as heavy as it used to be, board member Fay Miller explained, and sections have been "turned end for end" when damaged by dogs.
"We have some escape artists out here," she said.
Also on the list as funds are available are heating and air flow improvements.
The state is requiring those measures, in addition to improvements in the kennel, but have been patient as long as shelter officials are showing progress, Detwiler said.
A written report from PAHS indicated that it may take "a couple of years" to completely satisfy the state inspector.
The shelter contracts with the City of Pratt to house animals taken in by animal control officers, Detwiler said, as she requested a similar agreement with the county, with $1,000 per month as a fee, and not a donation. The shelter takes in animals from all communities in Pratt County, she said.
Even as the shelter's role has expanded, the total number of animals in care has declined. Sandy Scarberry, who has served as shelter manager for about two years, said when she started, the average dog population at any time was 25; now it is down to 13.
She credited a spay-neuter assistance program (SNAP) that pays a portion of the surgical fees for qualifying pet owners with reducing the number of unwanted animals.
More than 1,000 animals have been spayed or neutered under the program, according to Miller. She also noted that Dr. Pam Howell is working with the City of Iuka on a catch and release program, altering 44 cats in one morning.
"Their cat problem is going to gradually go away," Miller predicted.
Scarberry cited another accomplishment for the shelter. When she started, two to four animals had to be euthanized each month because they could not be adopted. Since October, none have been put down.
Borho questioned PAHS representatives about animals that have been mistreated and are mean.
"Sandy's on the computer at lot, looking for rescues and fosters," Detwiler commented, and is able to find programs that can accept special-needs animals, socialize and retrain them and sometimes find adoptive homes for them.
Borho also questioned if animals can be returned if an adoption doesn't work out.
The shelter gives adoptive families six months to adapt to their pets, and vice versa, Scarberry said. If it doesn't work out, she will take the animal back without requiring a $40 surrender fee. After six months, she will take an animal if she has room, for the fee. She doesn't like to do that, however.
"Dogs are like family; you take on the commitment like a kid," she said.