ALPENA- The cold and snow has taken its toll on many people and affected many things so far this winter. That includes the animals, staff and finances at the Huron Humane Society.
The shelter, which is in the middle of significant renovations, is being hampered by high energy costs and an increasing population. Stray dogs and cats are being brought to the shelter by animal control and concerned residents who want to get stray animals out of the cold conditions.
Manager Natalie Francis said money is always tight, but finances are even more difficult this winter. She said the community always has supported the humane society and it is counting on it again to help keep the doors open.
"Right now it is really week to week," Francis said. "The heating bills are huge because in the old part of the shelter we have to use propane and there are more animals coming in. As normal we are above capacity. It has been cold and the stray animals have been going to people's homes looking for food, water and heat and they, or animal control, bring them here. It is sort of a new challenge for us."
The Huron Humane Society took over animal control operation in 2013. Francis said there has been an increase in the number of cats that have been brought to the shelter due to the cold weather and heavy snow. She said all of the available space for cats and kittens is being utilized right now.
Francis said some of the improvements made to the shelter are complete and construction on others are ongoing. There are new kennels set up at the shelter and the old dingy ones in the back of the facility have been closed. There is also a meet and greet room and an isolation room that contain animals.
She said more kennels are being built and possibly another cat room. She said there also will be an energy efficient heater installed that will help lower gas bills in the future. Francis said the new area at the shelter is more humane than the old section that was closed.
"It is cleaner, brighter and they are closer to people to interact with, so they are a whole lot happier," Francis said. "There is still work being done, but once it is completed the old part of the shelter will be used for offices and storage and the new part will house the animals. Most of it has been made possible by donations and volunteers, but we are getting there."
Francis said the shelter can use food, kitty litter and about anything else dogs and cats count on to survive. Cleaning supplies such as bleach also are needed. She said donations are always welcome and can be dropped of at the shelter.
Despite the improvements made to the shelter there is a great amount of work that needs to be done. Francis said building a new facility on the property donated from Lafarge on Commerce Drive was being considered at one point, but the cost was high and finding the funding to build it difficult. She said there has been little to no talk about a possible millage in Alpena County for operations or facility improvements to this point.
"There are a lot of animal lovers in the area and they always come through," Francis said. "Right now we are doing what we can with what we've got. It really comes down to getting your pet spayed or neutered. People are getting educated about it, but until it is done more these types of problems will continue to be an issue and expensive."
The Huron Humane Society Gala will be held in March. It is the largest fundraising event for the shelter each year. Tickets are available for $35 each.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.