The Humane Society has too many dogs, and fewer intake contracts

The Humane Society has too many dogs, and fewer intake contracts

Menands – The only home two-year-old Scarlett has ever known is the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society’s kennel.

Over the past two years, the stray mixed breed housed in Troy has overcome kennel cough, poisoning, knee surgery and the emotional scars of the abuse she received as a puppy.

She is just one of the dogs that occupy the shelter’s 86 homes that are expanding due to the staggering rise in cases of animal cruelty and stray dogs. The situation led Animal Welfare to renew only five of the partners’ 21 municipal contracts for 2023, leaving 16 communities scrambling to find solutions for dealing with stray dogs. (State law only requires municipalities to house dogs, not cats or other animals.)

“Reducing contracts is the only safe and responsible way for MHHS to fulfill its commitment to its contracting partners, the community and the animals. We have worked hard to create a direct firing rate of 95.6 percent,” said CEO Ashley Book. “We never want to be in a situation where space has to be euthanized.” As we have done for many years.”

The nonprofit shelter is expected to house 1,198 dogs this year, up 29 percent from 2021. Bock attributed the rise to myriad reasons including the end of pandemic-era regulations protecting residents from eviction, and a return to work after easing pandemic protocols. Or undergoing career changes after a pandemic and soaring inflation burdening pet owners with high care costs.

The organization will maintain contracts with the five municipalities that produce the most stray dogs in the area: the cities of Albany, Watervliet, Schenectady, Troy and the Town of Colony. Over the past year, Bock said, dog intake from these five municipalities alone has increased by more than 43 percent, and dogs from these regions make up 90 percent of the shelter’s litters. She will also continue to assist Albany and Rensselaer counties with their grueling investigations.

By terminating contracts with more than a dozen other municipalities—which include Schodack, Poestenkill, Guilderland, North Greenbush, East Greenbush, and the city of Cohoes—the Mohawk Hudson population of dogs will be reduced by nearly 10 percent. While the change in contracts aims to better serve the communities with the highest levels of straying and cruelty, it places a new burden on other locations that lack the infrastructure and resources to create their own shelter programs, which is what state law requires in places that issue dog licenses.

In Shodak, Animal Control Officer Maggie Banker said the city is discussing future shelter programs. For her, the Mohawk Hudson announcement is disappointing but not surprising. “It’s sad because the public has misinformation about the Mohawks. They donate tons, thousands of dollars, and the Mohawks get city and state grants, and then this happens. They claim they’re for animals—and the Mohawks themselves—but the organization is about getting a dollar.”

The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society has undergone major changes since expanding from a small, decades-old facility to its current 32,000-square-foot animal care center that opened in 2017. This past April, the nonprofit received a $1 million donation from Business for Good, bringing It marks the largest contribution in its 135-year history. Earlier this month, the shelter also received $500,000 through the New York State Companion Animal Capital Fund to build a veterinary pavilion that would allow the separation of sick dogs from healthy dogs.

Banker said she’s willing to work tirelessly and draw on her background in animal rescue to meet the needs of the communities she oversees, which also includes Steventown, another Rensselaer County town that now needs a Plan B. As for other cities, Banker said the contract losses are likely to hurt animal services. (Chodak brought in one dog last year, while Steventown brought none, according to the animal control officer.)

In Poestenkill, which Mohawk Hudson says brought in four dogs last year, superintendent Keith Hammon shared a similar view with Banker, saying he believes Mohawk Hudson has strayed from its mission of helping animals find homes and is instead operating more like a business. profitable business. “I think they lost their way and I wish them all the best in the world. I hope they find their way and can serve people again but right now, they are doing a lousy job and hurting people.”

Hammon said the town’s dog control officer has a small kennel operation that they may seek to expand, which takes six to 12 dogs a year. He said they are working with the town of Sand Lake, which also lost the Mohawk Hudson contract, to discuss the possibility of a shared shelter project to better serve their communities for a more affordable price than they previously paid Mohawk Hudson. .

The other Mohawk-Hudson municipalities also will not renew contracts with Green Island, Bethlehem, New Scotland, Knox, Rensselaer, Westerlo, Brunswick and Glenville. Municipalities pay a daily rate to a Mohawk Hudson per dog.

Mohawk Hudson disputes descriptions that the nonprofit chooses financial resources over caring for dogs in need. Bock said the decision to release certain contracts is not about money, but about prioritizing humane care and employee safety. “Hudson Mohawk Humane Society is a private, nonprofit organization and is not a municipal shelter. While helping municipalities fulfill their responsibilities has been and always will be an important part of what we do, we cannot sacrifice the quality of care we provide and we cannot allow our employees to work in unsafe conditions.”

The shelter generated $660,553 in profits in 2020, according to its 990 tax forms, with $4.5 million in total revenue and $3.8 million in expenses. However, Mohawk Hudson said in 2019 that he has a deficit of more than $500,000, and the nonprofit is also responsible for paying off a $3.6 million mortgage balance.

Of the 16 municipalities with which it is no longer under contract, only Guilderland has a pre-existing animal shelter, which can accommodate eight dogs. Because of this, Eric Batchelder, Chief Constable of Guilderland Police, said the town was in very good condition to meet emergency needs. They take in 45 to 50 stray dogs a year, and the majority are returned to their owners. For dogs in need of long-term care, the city is exploring options but is preparing to house them in a small shelter if necessary.

The 86 Mohawk Hudson shelters house dogs available for adoption, therapy, or isolation and in the Safe Haven Program, which accommodates pets of domestic violence victims residing in programs sheltered by Unity House or Equinox. While federal law requires municipalities to house dogs for five to seven days, the Mohawks provide an average of 27 days of care per dog, with the majority not being picked up by their owners. Some, like Scarlett, stay longer. With contracts that only cover the cost of the required stray holding period, the Mohawk Hudson pays the rest of the fees—from spaying, surgery, and vaccinations to behavioral care and enrichment. Mohawk Hudson generates revenue from grants, donations, and service fees.

Some dogs who were never picked up by their owners are just as lucky, like Phil, who came to the shelter when he was 11 months old and received great behavioral and medical care before being adopted a year later. But many share Scarlett’s experience, becoming too familiar with a noisy kennel room and tired of being tempted by strangers walking in front of a younger dog or a more desirable breed.

Although reducing partnerships will add some shelter space, it won’t be enough to address the surge in stray or endangered dogs, so Mohawk Hudson said it’s also investing its time and resources in strengthening pet care and retention programs.

“Our pet stock and low-cost spay/neuter vaccination programs have seen a huge increase in demand, and we do everything we can to keep these pets in safe, loving homes rather than coming to the shelter. Last year, we increased the number of dog care centers by 77 in cent, but still not enough to compensate for the huge influx of dogs.

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