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Beltrami Humane Society Board of Directors Chairwoman Teri Collyard takes a cat out of a kennel. The shelter has started a fundraising campaign to raise $40,000 that is needed to fill a budget shortfall. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper
Beltrami Humane Society Board of Directors Chairwoman Teri Collyard takes a cat out of a kennel. The shelter has started a fundraising campaign to raise $40,000 that is needed to fill a budget shortfall. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Beltrami County Humane Society could close its doors next year if it doesn't find $40,000

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news Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Heather Hertel met the friend she had been looking for - a brown and white cat named Liberty.

It was cute, cuddly and friendly with other cats and dogs, all the qualities she was looking for in a pet.

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Hertel eventually left the Beltrami Humane Society empty-handed, needing more time to think about adopting a pet, but she may only have a month to decide. If the nonprofit organization doesn't fill a $40,000 budget shortfall, it could close its doors by the end of December.

The Beltrami Humane Society, 1612 Carr Lake Road SE in Bemidji, has provided a no-kill shelter for abandoned cats and dogs in the region since 1977. It serves Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater and northern Hubbard counties.

The Humane Society has an annual operating budget of $120,000. It relies on 75 percent of its budget from cash donations from the community and fundraisers and 25 percent from fees paid by people who surrender or adopt animals.

The shelter encountered a list of setbacks this year that put it in the red.

Fewer people adopted animals in 2011 than expected, but the shelter continued to have a waiting list of animals needing a home. Currently, there are 100 cats and 30 dogs waiting to be surrendered.

Grants that were once available also became more competitive or reduced.

Weekly donations fell short by $3,000 to $4,000. Supplies and food donations have decreased by 50 percent since April.

This is a sign of the times, said Humane Society Board Chairwoman Teri Collyard.

"This is a pretty significant dip. We've never had to go to the public and say, 'We're to the point of closing our doors if we don't figure something out.'"

The Humane Society's board of directors has started a fundraising campaign with the goal of collecting $40,000 by the end of December in order to keep its doors open.

On Nov. 19 and 29, the shelter will put on a "Santa Paws" fundraiser in which families can have their holiday pictures taken.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Humane Society is also asking for donations to give special meals, treats or toys to the cats and dogs at the shelter.

The Humane Society is not funded by tax dollars and is not connected to the Beltrami County government.

"People also assume because we are a humane society that means we get funds from Humane Society of the United States, but we do not," Collyard said.

Less than 10 percent of the money the national organization takes in goes to agencies, she said.

The local organization employs one full-time staff member and four part-time people and relies on between 10 and 15 volunteers on a weekly basis.

Currently, the shelter is running without a dire. That person would normally oversee day-to-day operations and look for additional funding sources. It cannot afford to hire a director, however, until it finds money to balance its budget.

"With the shortfall. we've had to pinch pennies, so the board decided to step up for a short period of time and do fundraising so we could get a good, competitive wage for a director to come in and hopefully prevent this from happening again," Collyard said.

The most costly expense for the Humane Society is its mandatory spaying and neutering policy. On average, the organization spends $25,000 per year to keep animals sterilized.

Another large expense is keeping animals current with their vaccinations. The Society receives discounted rates for medical expenses from some area veterinary clinics, but it still must pay a percentage.

Collyard said the animal shelter has been doing what it can to cut expenses.

One year ago, the shelter housed close to 100 animals. Now it is down to 70 in order to keep the animals less stressed and healthier, which has reduced medical costs, Collyard said.

The organization also tightened its budget by cutting smaller expenses, such as switching to cheaper cleaning products.

Reducing staff to save money is not an option.

"At this point, we need the staff right now to operate it," Collyard said. "If we didn't have it, we couldn't operate."

She predicted about $20,000 will be saved in reducing the smaller expenses. In the meantime, the shelter must rely on community contributions in order to survive.

Without a Humane Society, Collyard said, the city of Bemidji and Beltrami County would be the sole caregivers of stray animals. In addition, more animals would be euthanized, which would cost both government entities more money.

"There are a lot of families out there, even with the mortgage and economic crisis, who are unable to maintain the pets they have," Collyard said. "They have to get rid of their animals. Without the Humane Society, they won't have a place to bring those animals to."

Collyard said the board of directors is not taking this issue lightly.

"A lot of agencies are saying they are in trouble, but this is something we looked long and hard at before we brought it to the community to ask for help," Collyard said. "We've exhausted a lot of those resources. That's why we're asking the community to help us."

How you can help:

E Donate online at www.beltramihumane.com.

E Donate puppy and kitten food and cat litter.

E Become a member of the Beltrami Humane Society.

E Participate in Adopt-a-Kennel.

E Volunteer.

E Adopt a shelter animal.

E Have your own pet(s) spayed or neutered and wearing an ID tag.

Heather Hertel met the friend she had been looking for - a brown and white cat named Liberty.

It was cute, cuddly and friendly with other cats and dogs, all the qualities she was looking for in a pet.

Hertel eventually left the Beltrami Humane Society empty-handed, needing more time to think about adopting a pet, but she may only have a month to decide. If the nonprofit organization doesn't fill a $40,000 budget shortfall, it could close its doors by the end of December.

The Beltrami Humane Society, 1612 Carr Lake Road SE in Bemidji, has provided a no-kill shelter for abandoned cats and dogs in the region since 1977. It serves Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater and northern Hubbard counties.

The Humane Society has an annual operating budget of $120,000. It relies on 75 percent of its budget from cash donations from the community and fundraisers and 25 percent from fees paid by people who surrender or adopt animals.

The shelter encountered a list of setbacks this year that put it in the red.

Fewer people adopted animals in 2011 than expected, but the shelter continued to have a waiting list of animals needing a home. Currently, there are 100 cats and 30 dogs waiting to be surrendered.

Grants that were once available also became more competitive or reduced.

Weekly donations fell short by $3,000 to $4,000. Supplies and food donations have decreased by 50 percent since April.

This is a sign of the times, said Humane Society Board Chairwoman Teri Collyard.

"This is a pretty significant dip. We've never had to go to the public and say, 'We're to the point of closing our doors if we don't figure something out.'"

The Humane Society's board of directors has started a fundraising campaign with the goal of collecting $40,000 by the end of December in order to keep its doors open.

On Nov. 19 and 29, the shelter will put on a "Santa Paws" fundraiser in which families can have their holiday pictures taken.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Humane Society is also asking for donations to give special meals, treats or toys to the cats and dogs at the shelter.

The Humane Society is not funded by tax dollars and is not connected to the Beltrami County government.

"People also assume because we are a humane society that means we get funds from Humane Society of the United States, but we do not," Collyard said.

Less than 10 percent of the money the national organization takes in goes to agencies, she said.

The local organization employs one full-time staff member and four part-time people and relies on between 10 and 15 volunteers on a weekly basis.

Currently, the shelter is running without a dire. That person would normally oversee day-to-day operations and look for additional funding sources. It cannot afford to hire a director, however, until it finds money to balance its budget.

"With the shortfall. we've had to pinch pennies, so the board decided to step up for a short period of time and do fundraising so we could get a good, competitive wage for a director to come in and hopefully prevent this from happening again," Collyard said.

The most costly expense for the Humane Society is its mandatory spaying and neutering policy. On average, the organization spends $25,000 per year to keep animals sterilized.

Another large expense is keeping animals current with their vaccinations. The Society receives discounted rates for medical expenses from some area veterinary clinics, but it still must pay a percentage.

Collyard said the animal shelter has been doing what it can to cut expenses.

One year ago, the shelter housed close to 100 animals. Now it is down to 70 in order to keep the animals less stressed and healthier, which has reduced medical costs, Collyard said.

The organization also tightened its budget by cutting smaller expenses, such as switching to cheaper cleaning products.

Reducing staff to save money is not an option.

"At this point, we need the staff right now to operate it," Collyard said. "If we didn't have it, we couldn't operate."

She predicted about $20,000 will be saved in reducing the smaller expenses. In the meantime, the shelter must rely on community contributions in order to survive.

Without a Humane Society, Collyard said, the city of Bemidji and Beltrami County would be the sole caregivers of stray animals. In addition, more animals would be euthanized, which would cost both government entities more money.

"There are a lot of families out there, even with the mortgage and economic crisis, who are unable to maintain the pets they have," Collyard said. "They have to get rid of their animals. Without the Humane Society, they won't have a place to bring those animals to."

Collyard said the board of directors is not taking this issue lightly.

"A lot of agencies are saying they are in trouble, but this is something we looked long and hard at before we brought it to the community to ask for help," Collyard said. "We've exhausted a lot of those resources. That's why we're asking the community to help us."

How you can help:

- Donate online at www.beltramihumane.com.

- Donate puppy and kitten food and cat litter.

- Become a member of the Beltrami Humane Society.

- Participate in Adopt-a-Kennel.

- Volunteer.

- Adopt a shelter animal.

- Have your own pet(s) spayed or neutered and wearing an ID tag.

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