By Christine Bryant
When Natalie was found roaming the streets, she was one of the worst cases animal advocates had ever seen.
Suffering from a heavy metal chain that was embedded in her skin around her body and under her legs, Natalie was in pain and in need of help badly. Thanks to Friends of the Shelter supporters, however, she received the surgery and care she needed, and is now waiting for a forever home.
“She recovered in our offsite foster home and infirmary, and is now available for adoption at the Franklin County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center,” said Janet Hawk, director of Friends of the Shelter, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization established to fund the medical care of the sick and injured dogs at the shelter. “During her time in foster care, she had to learn how to be a loved family pet.”
Although Natalie is receiving a second chance at life, Hawk says she is worried fewer pets will get that same chance.
Since early 2014, financial donations to Friends of the Shelter have decreased by more than 30 percent, while the shelter dogs’ medical care costs have increased by more than 35 percent – resulting in a deficit of over $35,000 – and it’s growing.
“Our savings is running out,” Hawk said. “For the first time in our history, Friends of the Shelter will not be able to save the sick and injured shelter dogs – unless we receive immediate financial support from the community.”
While Hawk says as with any charitable organization, donations will ebb and flow throughout the year, the reduced donations have come at the most unfortunate time – when medical expenses were on the rise, she said.
“While we have seen a bit of an increase in the number of dogs we’ve helped, the medical expenses seem to have increased primarily due to the nature of the injuries,” she said.
During the first half of 2014, many of the dogs required complex surgeries, which can be costly even with substantial discounts from local veterinarians who work with the organization, she said.
The organization, founded in 2003, saves about 350 dogs each year that arrive at the shelter with injuries such as broken limbs or illnesses such as heart worm or parvovirus. Once healed from their injuries and cured from any diseases, the dogs are adopted through the Franklin County Dog Shelter.
Each month, Friends of the Shelter has expenses that average about $15,000 to $20,000. Though the dog shelter is funded by the county budget and from funds generated through fees, such as dog licenses, these sources of funding are not sufficient to provide medical care for the shelter dogs that need more than basic services, Hawk said.
“That is where Friends of the Shelter comes in,” she said. “We are a completely separate, non-profit organization that works with the Franklin County Dog Shelter team to save these sick or injured – both otherwise adoptable – dogs so they can be adopted into loving, forever homes.”
To ensure the dogs can recuperate from their surgeries or treatment before being adopted, Friends of the Shelter created an off-site infirmary care program. This program, funded by Friends of the Shelter donors, allows the organization to save dogs’ lives by expanding the number it can treat and then place into permanent homes.
The infirmary is housed at a veterinary clinic, providing medical boarding for the dogs as they recover. Many also move to foster homes until they meet their new families, Hawk said.
“Consequently, on-going donations are important to ensure no interruption in our ability to provide the shelter dogs with needed medical care,” she said.
However, if funding continues to become limited, the number of dogs the organization can help will be reduced.
“We are continuing to provide medical care as we can with the donations we are receiving,” Hawk said. “Because we’re all-volunteer and a non-profit, 97 percent of all of the donations received go directly to funding the medical care for the dogs, which helps stretch our dollars as far as possible.”
The organization has several fundraisers planned to continue raising additional funding and awareness for Friends of the Shelter. The next event, PupArt, will take place from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at the Dublin Arts Council, 7125 Riverside Drive, Dublin. The event will offer an evening of jazz music, adoptable dogs, appetizers, wine and silent art auctions.
Friends of the Shelter also will hold an annual 5K for K9s, which is the organization’s largest event of the year. This year’s race will be held at 9 a.m. Sept. 20 at Alum Creek State Park.
The nonprofit also operates a shop at the Franklin County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center, which is open from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Fridays, and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The shop offers dog supplies, including beds, toys, collars, leashes and crates.
For more information on these events or about Friends of the Shelter, go to Friendsoftheshelter.org.