Humane Society aims to expand

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Humane Society of Charlotte will handle over 2,000 cats and dogs this year, helping nearly all of them find adoptive homes, up from 1,400 last year, and will spay or neuter nearly 10,000 animals, up from 7,500 last year.

And while the nonprofit euthanizes less than 2 percent of the animals it handles at its shelter, which can hold up to 76 dogs and 80 cats at any given time, an estimated 15,000 animals are euthanized each year in Mecklenburg County.

“If we had a bigger facility and more resources, we would be able to help with that by taking in more adoptable animals from the county,” says Donna Canzano, director of development.

Formed in July 1978, the Humane Society operates a shelter and two spay/neuter clinics in facilities it leases from the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, with all the buildings dating from the 1950s and lacking modern features such as systems to clean dog runs and cat cages.

“We’re behind the eight-ball,” says David Miller, an 11-year veteran of the animal-welfare industry who joined the Humane Society in February 2007. “We can do more and we have done more over the past year, but the facility is what’s going to hold us back from being able to do more for the animals in this community, as well as the people.”

Now, the Humane Society plans to study the feasibility of a campaign to build larger facilities that could handle more animals from the county, the region and even the state, and possibly to build an endowment.

The campaign could range from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the size and scope of the agency’s plans and the willingness of the community to support those plans, Miller says.

The quiet phase of the campaign could begin next year and its public phase could begin in 2010 at the latest, he says.

With an annual budget of over $1.9 million, up from $1.5 million last year, and a staff of 23 employees, including one working part-time, the Humane Society operates a 4,500-square-foot shelter at 2700 Toomey Avenue, and a public spay/neuter clinic next door, as well as a spay/neuter clinic in the animal care and control building at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

The agency operates with a policy of euthanizing animals only for severe health problems or issues involving severe aggression or temperament.

Since it opened its first clinic in 1982, the Humane Society has spayed or neutered roughly 140,000 animals.

The agency, which receives no funds from the Humane Society of the United States, generates 30 percent of its revenue from fees for adoptions, spaying and neutering, and on donations for the remainder.

Over the past three years, the Humane Society also has built a $2.4 million reserve, mainly through a planned gift from an individual donor.

And on Sept. 27, at Independence Park in East Charlotte, the Humane Society hopes to net $175,000 at its PetPalooza walk, which last year netted $100,000 and attracted 1,000 to 1,500 participants.

The previous year, when it was known as Pet Parade, the event netted $40,000.

“We want to help as many animals as possible,” Miller says.”A lot of that will be dictated by what the community will support.”

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