Animals Find Care And Compassion With Toledo Humane Society

Queenie, a medium-sized mixed breed, is another long-stay dog at the shelter. PHOTO COURTESY OF TOLEDO HUMANE SOCIETY
Several pocket pets, including rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, birds, ferrets, chinchillas and more can also be found at the shelter. MIRROR PHOTO BY KRISTI FISH
Toledo Humane Society president and CEO Stephen Heaven sits at his desk at the shelter. MIRROR PHOTO BY MIKE McCARTHY

BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — The Toledo Humane Society is preparing for some changes this year.

A new standalone veterinary clinic and a move of the thrift shop from Byrne Road to 2306 S. Reynolds Rd. in Toledo will provide necessary improvements for the organization. Both new sites are planned to open this year. 

The new clinic will offer services to families in East Toledo and will be located on East Broadway Street. The South Reynolds Road site for the thrift store will provide a larger space than the current location. These improvements are meant to bring in more money for the organization while providing more support for local animals, Toledo Humane Society president and CEO Stephen Heaven said.

“These will hopefully be some source of revenue. Keeping money coming in is a huge part of our operations,” Heaven said.

The Toledo Humane Society relies heavily on donations and money raised from several different efforts throughout the year. Donations can be made on the organization’s website, toledohumane.org. 

“We always need money to operate. That is a big part of what we do: trying to raise money,” Heaven said. “The next biggest need is literally dog walkers. We’re always looking for volunteers to come in and walk dogs.”

The organization needs each dog taken out of their cage at least three times a day, so volunteers are important in making that happen. Volunteers are also vital for completing simple work around the building, including laundry.

“We always have a lot of laundry to do. That’s volunteer-driven as well,” Heaven said. “The staff will do the work if there are no volunteers, but the staff appreciate them because they can get working on other stuff like the cleaning and care of the animals.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020, the organization saw a significant drop in volunteers. Staff had to stay later after closing to get everything done. Heaven said the volunteers are incredibly important to the operation, and the organization can always use more of them.

Interested volunteers can learn more about the process and sign up for an orientation class at toledohumane.org.

Monetary donations and volunteering are two simple ways for the community to help support the organization and make a big impact. Additionally, members of the community can provide donations including unopened food, which the organization then distributes throughout the community. Donated food is not used at the shelter.

“We can reuse that so our cruelty department can give it to people who need help,” Heaven said. “With our meals on wheels program or somebody who calls and says they’re a bit tight this month, we can use a lot of the food that comes in. It directly helps a lot of the animals that are in the community.”

In the summer, wet food is especially welcomed by the shelter.

“We’re really inundated with kittens in the summer, so we always need wet food for them,” Heaven said.

A list of other sought-after items, including enrichment items and basic necessities, which can be dropped off at the Humane Society’s Illinois Avenue location in Maumee, is on the organization’s website. An Amazon Wish List link is also provided at toledohumane.org/give.

The Humane Society relies heavily on the community in order to care for the thousands of animals brought through its doors each year.

“We take in about 5,000 animals a year. That is mainly cats and dogs – more cats than dogs, probably – and then we have some pocket pets: guinea pigs, mice, hamsters, ferrets, sometimes chinchillas and birds,” Heaven said.

Each animal that comes to the Humane Society is triaged and examined as part of its intake process. Animals arrive at the shelter via owner surrender, Lucas County Canine Care and Control, the ASPCA and occasionally places like Detroit Animal Control.

After the intake process, the shelter decides the best needs for the animal. Some must go into foster homes while others can stay in the shelter.

“You have to think of the shelter as a hostile environment for some animals – there’s a potential for disease,” Heaven said. “The noise, the smells, they can be bored out of their mind. We like to get them out.”

Some animals will not do as well surrounded by the loud noises and other animals – the shelter has more secluded areas for some of those animals. Other animals, like moms with new litters or animals recovering from surgery and needing a long recuperation period, fare better in foster homes.

Foster homes can provide a quieter environment for these animals. Heaven said some of the long-term fosters become “foster fails” because they are adopted by their foster families. Other animals move on to permanent homes after staying with a foster family.

Foster homes are necessary to appropriately care for animals that would otherwise wait in kennels until finding a new home. At any given time, the shelter has up to 200 or more animals in foster homes. Community members interested in providing a foster home can find a FAQ sheet and application online at toledohumane.org/pet-foster-care.

Unfortunately, some animals that come into the shelter are too ill or deemed too aggressive and are euthanized. The Toledo Humane Society has a live release rate between 94 and 96 percent. The organization occasionally receives animals from shelters that would otherwise be euthanized due to lack of space.

The shelter also receives animals through the ASPCA, which organizes the transfer of some animals from the southern United States to shelters in other parts of the country.

“That originally started when spay and neuter legislation and education and facilities started opening up in the northeast part of the country. They were the first place to start seeing a shortage of puppies,” Heaven said.

As spay/neuter legislation and facilities moved across the northern parts of the country, those places saw a drop in puppies. 

Several groups realized that in the south, where legislation and education about spaying and neutering had lagged, thousands of puppies were being euthanized. For 20 years, dogs have been moved from the south to the north, where organizations have more room in their kennels.

“It’s a program with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They do the transports. We get them in every week,” Heaven said. “It’s turning now. There’s not as many puppies coming from the south. It’s a higher percentage of adult dogs. The dogs you get from the south are also softer, hound-type dogs, beagles and things like that.”

When Heaven first started working in the industry 30 years ago, approximately 20 million animals were euthanized by shelters each year. Now, it’s closer to 2 to 4 million, Heaven said.

Many shelters, like the Toledo Humane Society, rely on staff, volunteers and donations from the community to keep improving. After all, one of the biggest issues the organization has had and will continue to have is limited space. Foster homes help open space in the shelters, and money allows the Humane Society to expand or to provide resources for the community – ensuring animals stay with their families even if owners might be a bit tight on money for the month.

The ultimate goal of the shelter is to find homes for the animals. The only way shelter staff can do this is with the proper resources.

Those interested in adopting an animal or donating cash or goods may contact the Toledo Humane Society at (419) 891-0705, toledohumane.org or 827 Illinois Ave, Maumee.

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