KINGMAN - Local animal rescue groups are excited about Western Arizona Humane Society in Lake Havasu City taking over operations at the Mohave County Animal Shelter in Kingman.
"We're very glad the county has agreed to contract with the Humane Society," said Jen Miles of Mohave Companion Animals Rescue Efforts Network, or CARE-Net. "We hope the community will surround the shelter with volunteer support."
"I think this is great," said Roy Hayes of CARE-Net. "This is a good start."
WAHS Executive Director Victoria Cowper was in Kingman Wednesday to start work on the transition. The Humane Society is slated to take over full operation of the shelter on Aug. 1. A grand opening is planned for Aug. 3.
WAHS personnel are currently working with Mohave County Sheriff's Office Animal Control officers in order to make a smooth transition.
WAHS will lease the Kingman shelter from the county and plans to make some minor cosmetic changes to it and add some computers. Mohave County Sheriff's Animal Control officers will still be in charge of enforcing laws concerning animals.
WAHS will face some obstacles in taking over the old Kingman shelter. The building was built in the late 1970s or early '80s and only has 40 kennels for animals.
Last year, the Kingman shelter took in 5,666 animals and had to destroy 4,421, according to Mattie's Fund, an organization designed to encourage more no-kill animal shelters across the nation. Luckily, around 771 animals were adopted out, more than 200 were given to CARENet and other animal shelters and 422 were returned to their owners.
"There's only so much they can do without a new shelter," Hayes said. A study was completed last year to see how much it would cost to build a new shelter that would meet the county's needs, but the nearly $5 million project was put on hold when the economy took a downturn.
Last year, the Humane Society took in 2,514 animals, adopted out 1,361 and had to euthanize 401, according to Mattie's Fund.
The spring and early summer months are a hard time for animal shelters in the area, Miles said. A number of puppies and kittens are born during these months. Many times the mother and the babies are dumped off at a shelter after the former owner realizes how much work they can be.
However, both CARENet and WAHS would rather see pet owners drop their pets off at a shelter, where there is a chance the animal may be adopted, than to leave the animal to fend for itself in the desert or in a foreclosed home.
Educating the public about the need to spay and neuter their pets is an ongoing battle, Miles and Hayes said.
It's not that people are not aware of the need to spay or neuter an animal, Hayes said. Many people are more than willing to adopt an animal, but when they take it to the vet and find out that it could cost them between $100 to $300 to spay or neuter the animal, they balk. Even with $45 coupons that are occasionally available from the Sheriff's Office, the cost can be out of the reach of many pet lovers, he said.
There is Low Cost Spay and Neuter on Northern Avenue in Kingman, but the organization's clinics are often booked well in advance.
"We'll never be able to get this under control without educating the public," Hayes said. "The shelter is doing what it can, but it doesn't have the facilities."
Miles and Hayes hope the Humane Society will bring its community outreach programs to the Kingman area. The Society is well known in the Havasu area for setting up animal adoption clinics at the local Petsmart and for its welcoming atmosphere for volunteers.
If WAHS can bring that same outreach program to the Kingman area, it may be able to increase the number of animals that are adopted and decrease the number killed despite the lack of space in the shelter, they said.
"Our mission is slightly different from the Mohave County Sheriff's Office," Cowper said. "We have a certain flexibility that the Sheriff's Office doesn't have."
The Humane Society can use foster homes and work with no-kill organizations to help keep down the number of animals destroyed. It can also set up clinics at local stores to encourage people to adopt animals, something the Sheriff's Office may not have been able to do.
The Humane Society does plan to bring its outreach programs to the area and hopes to decrease the number of animals killed each year. Yet despite their best efforts, some animals will have to be killed, Cowper said. There are just too many of them and not enough good homes to put them in.
There has been a lot of finger-pointing about who's to blame for the large number of animals that are euthanized, Cowper said. Some of that is because the shelter is now too small for the area. But the community also needs to get involved in the process. The organization needs more residents who are willing to volunteer their time at the shelter or to foster animals in their homes.
"We need more community outreach programs and more adoptions," she said. "This is not the animals' fault. We hope this will be a change in the animal welfare for the area."