LAHARPE — For the past seven years, the Allen County Animal Rescue Facility has provided a vital lifeline for thousands of Fidos and Oscars; 1,947, to be exact.
But, much like the furry pets ACARF shelters, the organization is in trouble.
“Dire is the best way to put it,” Janice Porter, ACARF director said in a telephone interview this week.
Too many dogs and cats and not enough income, has forced the shelter to not only drastically reduce its population but also put a moratorium on accepting new ones.
In early June, the shelter had 60 dogs and 60 cats, a combined 40 animals above “full” capacity.
“We’re doing what we can to keep our doors open,” Porter said.
The first step is now complete. Thanks to assistance from other similar shelters across the state, ACARF was able to transfer out 21 dogs.
As of Tuesday, ACARF held 21 dogs and 14 cats, about the threshold set by the Board of Directors at its most recent meeting to keep the shelter’s population at 25 dogs and 15 cats.
“But we still can’t bring in animals just yet,” Porter said.
For one, ACARF is contractually bound to accept all dogs brought in by the City of Iola, “and we still have a lengthy waiting list” from other residents ready to bring in more animals that need adopted, Porter said.
The smaller animal population inside the shelter “saves us money because we have to buy less food, less medicine,” she explained. “We need to keep our vet bill paid.”
ACARF also has cut its paid staff “to the point we’re a skeleton crew,” Porter said. ‘We’re working fewer hours, things like that.”
She and ACARF treasurer Julie Payne attribute the budget crunch in part to a slowdown among residents who make regular contributions.
“”We had several residents who would make automatic monthly payments,” she said. “But as the economy worsened, people we could count on were unable to do so as much as they had before.”
“We have wonderful supporters who are doing what they can,” Payne said, “but without more donations from other sources, we just can’t make it work. Our facility could easily hold twice as many animals as what we’re going to keep in here, but we just can’t afford it.”
To illustrate, Payne notes the LaHarpe shelter “invests” at least $200 for each dog it takes in, through spaying and neutering costs, regular worming treatments, vaccinations, medicine and feed.
“Those prices go up the longer the animal is here,” Payne continued. “And shots for cats are very expensive, and they need several of them if they’re brought in as kittens.
“We lose money on every animal that’s adopted,” Payne concluded. “But we love what we do, and we see this as a vital service for the community. Ask the people who live in Carlyle, where there used to be dogs dumped out there every week. They don’t see dogs dumped out there nearly as often, because people have a place to bring their animals now.”
Iola’s Second Chance thrift store, which donates all of its proceeds to ACARF, also is less successful than in years past.
“We probably bring in one-half to two-thirds as much from Second Chance from what we did before,” Porter said.
PORTER and the ACARF board are investigating other measures to ensure long-term solvency.
Porter is looking for somebody to serve on a fundraiser committee.
“We get a lot of support from out of county as well,” Porter said. “We call ourselves an Allen County shelter mainly because of our location.”
Despite the cutbacks, ACARF will maintain the same working hours — 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
“We’re trying to live within our means to stay afloat,” Porter said.
“We really hope this isn’t a permanent change,” Payne added. “We would love to go back to doing what we’ve done before, if we can afford it. That’s why we’re in the business — to save lives.”