Humane Society Struggles as Budget Deadline Approaches

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The Sebastian County Humane Society is working with the city of Fort Smith to negotiate its next year’s budget.

“It’s a heart breaker. You want to be able to fix them all,” said JoAnn Barton, executive director of the Humane Society. “We just don’t have the money we need.”

The current contract expires on Aug. 1, which has Fort Smith’s Animal Service Advisory Board recommending changes they would like to see made.

The Animal Service Advisory Board met Wednesday night, and came up with several suggestions. Improvements within the contract could include having a full-time veterinarian on staff at the Humane Society and having detailed reports explaining why animals are being euthanized.

“At the end of the day, we care about the animals. We want a better life for the animals,” said board member Sherilyn Walton.

Board member Dr. Mike Thames agreed, saying he would love to see a full-time veterinarian on staff, providing the care and attention the animals need. However, he also said the city can’t afford a full-time veterinarian’ spot. Neither can the Humane Society.

Currently, the Humane Society is paying for a part-time veterinarian to come in approximately eight hours every week.

However, those eight hours are spent primarily spaying and neutering the animals so they can be adopted.

Thames estimated that it would cost around $125,000 a year for a full-time veterinarian.

Who will pay?

Dr. John Remer said he agrees strongly that a full-time veterinarian needs to be employed at the Humane Society. But he wants the burden of his or her paycheck to fall on the entire county, as opposed to just the city.

“I just didn’t think it would be fair to the city taxpayers of Fort Smith to hire a full-time veterinarian that’s taking care of the entire county of Sebastian County and all of the outlying towns,” said Remer.

In addition, Barton said the vet would need new medical equipment, which would add to that cost.

Walton says there is a simple answer: pet owners need to be more responsible. To do so, she says its necessary to spay and neuter your animals, as well as take good care of them.

“Mostly what we’re concerned with is people need to get their pets spayed or neutered. You know, everybody loves kittens, and everybody loves puppies. And the attitude often times is ‘Oh I just want to have one liter’. But then they don’t want to care for those puppies. And those puppies end up at the Humane Society,” said Walton.

“Owning a pet is not a right. It’s a privilege. And a privilege comes with obligations. Pet owners should be obligated to take care of their animals. They can’t just expect the Humane Society to do it for them,” said Remer. He agreed that pet owners need to be held responsible for the welfare of their own animals instead of surrendering them to the care of someone else.

Each animal costs the Humane Society about $15 a day. If there weren’t so many animals coming in, the Humane Society could use that money for other necessary expenditures.

“If the public could see what I see everyday, we wouldn’t have the money problem. We would not,” said Barton.

The current contract expires August 1. If the Humane Society and Fort Smith don’t agree on a new contract by then, a six-month extension could come into effect. 

If you’re interested in helping the Humane Society, they have more than a hundred animals up for adoption. They also have a foster care program, which allows people to spend some time with an animal without fully adopting it. You can also volunteer your time, or make a donation.

For more information, you can like the Humane Society Facebook page, visit their website, or give them a call at (479) 783-4395.