By LAUREN WALKER
Capital News Service
LANSING – Homelessness affects people during an economic downturn — and hundreds of thousands of their pets as well.
The economy has driven people who would normally otherwise care for the animals to abandon them, according to Homeward Bound Animal Shelter board president Sharon Monnot.
“A lot of people are moving around and they can’t take their animals with them,” Monnot said. Homeward Bound in Manistee is the primary shelter in Manistee County.
In such situations, former pets become homeless. Those that end up at no-kill shelters like Homeward Bound remain until they’re adopted.
Homeward Bound is one of 13 shelters to receive state grants to control animal populations. Homeless pets are spayed and neutered before being put up for adoption.
Other funded programs are in Allegan, Berrien, Benzie, Eaton, Genesee, Ingham, Isabella, Muskegon, Missaukee, Newaygo and Wayne counties.
To encourage the adoption process and reduce over-population, many shelters provide spay and neutering services to new owners. For nonprofit shelters, this can be expensive.
Money provided by the Companion Animal Welfare Fund helps cover some of the costs associated with reducing over-population, including spay and neuter programs and public education about animal welfare.
The fund, which gets its money from state tax return check-offs, began distributing grants last year.
State Veterinarian Steven Halstead, who helped establish the program, said that although he was a bit pessimistic in the beginning, the amount of donations is inspiring.
“People are demonstrating great civic responsibility and showing that they feel this program is important by putting their dollars to work and letting them speak for them,” he said.
This year, the fund generated more than $118,000 and gave 13 shelters $3,000 to $10,000 each.
Homeward Bound received about $9,500.
Other grants went to the Missaukee Humane Society ($3,000); Allen Park Police Department ($6,000); Eaton County Humane Society ($9,855); Allegan County Humane Society ($10,000); Benzie County Animal Control ($10,000); Friends of Michigan Animal Rescue in Wayne County ($10,000); Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan in Berrien County ($10,000); Humane Society of Genesee County ($10,000); Ingham County Animal Control ($10,000); Isabella County Animal Control ($10,000); Newaygo County ($10,000); and Volunteers for Muskegon County Animal Control ($10,000).
Because 34 shelters requested more than $300,000, Halstead said priority went to those that demonstrated plans for programs that would increase the number of spay and neuter procedures for stray and adopted animals.
Halstead said the goal of the program is to “reduce the number of unwanted animals out there, reduce the burden on the shelters and ultimately reduce the strays and the health risks that they present.”
Kevin Hatman, the public relations coordinator for the Michigan Humane Society in Bingham Farms, said the fund allows a coordinated effort across the state in reducing animal population, regardless of the shelter or community’s size.
“The fund has had a large impact on smaller shelters that may not receive a lot of funding and that may not receive a lot of donations, especially in more rural areas,” he said.
His organization serves Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck. It receives more than 100,000 animals and performs roughly 15,000 spay and neuter surgeries a year.
While Monnot said she’s grateful for the grant, she believes the state could do more to ease the costs associated with running a shelter and adopting animals.
Homeward Bound’s board of directors is working to get funds to keep the shelter going.
Monnot said her shelter has applied for numerous grants, but they’re not easy to come by.
“When funds get low we just have to work a little bit harder on fundraising,” she said. “We talk to people and let the community know where we’re at. “
Halstead acknowledges the economy’s effects on animal facilities, both public and nonprofit, and like Monnot, says community support is the ultimate solution.
“Because county animal control agencies and the Department of Agriculture are less able to be involved and to respond, there’s more grassroots effort,” he said. “It says that people are going to be passionate and are going to make sure that animals are cared for, regardless of what the agency response is.”
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.