Staff members at the Lawrence Humane Society carry around heavy loads these days.
It's not the bags of litter or the daily bags of kennel trash. These loads weigh on the inside, and it makes the other hauling even harder.
It's this economy thing.
Increasing gasoline and utility costs have hit our shelter hard, and the cost of medication for the animals has more than doubled since last year. Insurance costs rise about $2,000 a year, but pet adoptions are down. To keep the shelter running, we've had to borrow $12,500 from a line of credit at the bank just to make payroll for June.
We've been forced to initiate some unhappy changes, but they have shown us the dedication of our staff members. These workers have taken voluntary pay cuts - one as deep as $3 an hour. Each part-time shift has been cut by one day a week, and four workers who left have not been replaced.
Still, we have retained the same services to the community. We're working to find ways to keep paying our bills but still be the shelter our community needs us to be:
¢ To save money, for example, we no longer give the cats in our care a feline leukemia/FIV test. It's are too expensive.
¢ Fecal exams are only run once on each animal, rather than monthly. The exams are too expensive.
¢ We now use baths for flea control. Topical treatments are too expensive.
¢ And we're offering an e-mail option on our quarterly newsletter. Mail costs are too expensive.
¢ We leave the lights off as much as possible and set the air conditioning at 80 degrees, but we can't use electric fans to circulate the air, because that also circulates disease. We had been keeping the AC off at night until a generous contributor gave us the money to keep it running.
¢ We've stopped using the clothes dryers for our towels and blankets because of electric costs and because driers heat up the building. Instead, we dry the laundry over fences and a newly strung clothesline.
¢ We've initiated hoseless and spot-cleaning techniques in the cat rooms five days a week to cut down on water use and staff time.
We're sending out volunteers with adoptable animals to locations all around town each weekend to increase adoptions.
¢ We even combine trips around town as much as possible to save gasoline. It's hard, though, when we average slightly more than 10 pick-ups a week for stray animals, in addition to trips out for education talks, nursing home visits and fundraising purposes. Our main vehicle is, of necessity, a $100/tank gas hog. We can't cart multiple animal carriers in anything smaller.
"I'll be honest with you," Midge Grinstead told the membership in her most recent "Paw Prints" newsletter director's note. "We need your help."
And we'd like to suggest how you can help us directly, in addition to our usual need for canned dog and cat food (not dry, please - we only feed Hill's Science Diet), cat litter (regular, not scoopable), bleach, paper towels and dish and laundry soap.
Most of all, we need financial assistance.
Do you come out toward our shelter (1805 E. 19th St.) on a regular basis? Would you be willing to commit to picking up cardboard flats (for litter boxes) from certain liquor stores and delivering them to us one day each week, to save us the drive? If not, could you donate some prepaid gasoline cards?
To keep disease down, we change out the two buildings' 16 air filters monthly. Could you donate $130 to change them for one month?
We use a specific brand of special heavy-duty plastic garbage bags to dispose of kennel waste. We use 52 bags each day, and a roll of 100 is $54. If you brought us a check for that amount, you'd keep us going for two days.
Can you toss a few dog poop scoopers into your cart for us the next time you go to a pet supply store? We go through them quickly because they get such heavy use. Or how about some 75-or 100-foot heavy-duty garden hoses for cleaning? The water pressure we need means that they spring leaks regularly, even though we repair them.
Could you ask your vet to add a few boxes of Advantage or Revolution flea-and-tick medication to your bill? Or maybe a box of Sentinel or Heartgard heartworm medication, any size?
Can you join our Litter for Critters club? An annual donation of $160 keeps us supplied with cat litter for one week.
Please consider all these ways your cash donations can help. After all, if the Lawrence Humane Society were to close, who would be there for emergency responses, cruelty and neglect rescues and general education for the community?
Where would 7,500 animals go each year?