Humane Society Relies on Volunteers
By Lisa Pett
The Humane Society of Portage County relies on a small army of volunteers to help care for the animals that come through its doors.
Although the organization has some paid staff, including a full time veterinarian, the sheer number of cats and dogs needing care require the assistance of many dedicated people who donate their time and energy to walk, groom, socialize, foster, and help prepare companion animals for adoption.
HSPC trains a fresh crop of volunteers every third Thursday of the month at their location in Plover. According to Brett Jarman, Vice-President of the Board of Directors, the organization has nearly 400 volunteers. Together, these volunteers log over 1,000 hours each month.
“With this amount of work,” he said, “there is no way we could operate without a large group of volunteers.
HSPC volunteers fill many duties, from office admin to working fundraising and education events. Many, however, focus on caring for and interacting with the over 200 animals who are in the building at any one time. The focus on every animal is to prepare it for a successful adoption. Interaction with the volunteers; socializing, grooming, walking, and even basic obedience training is important.
All of the dogs and cats that volunteers work with, according to Jarman, have gone through a temperament test, to determine their adoption potential and are deemed appropriate for volunteer handling.
Jarman spends the evening training new recruits with the rules and guidelines established by HSPC. The volunteers are instructed how to use positive reinforcement, and how to properly walk and interact with the dogs and cats in the shelter. The hour long information session is followed by a tour of the facility and a demonstration of how to safely remove animals from their cages.
HSPC volunteer Tina Falstad described the reason she enjoys working with the organization. “The first big thing my husband Kyle and I did as a dating couple was adopt an extra large, extra sassy tabby cat from the Portage County Humane Society. Monty has brought me more joy than I could have ever realized. The sad truth is that many of these animals come into the shelter broken and downtrodden. These animals need routine, socialization, and most importantly compassion.”
HSPC utilizes a computer login system to track volunteer hours and jobs and volunteers can schedule hours online via the organization’s website.
“Volunteering is flexible,” said Jarman. “and each person can work as it best fits into their own schedule.” Volunteers are needed every day, and service can be performed even when the shelter isn’t open to the public. Operating hours for the HSPC are 11 am to 5 pm, weekdays except Wednesday when it is closed and from 11am to 3pm on weekends. Volunteers, however, can work early morning hours or during a special shift for nighttime volunteers from 7pm to 9pm.
It is one of the best things about volunteering with HSPC, said Falstad, “What I love about the volunteer program is the flexibility; ranging from morning to evening shifts. And there is plenty to do while you’re there from cat socialization to dog walking.”
The HSPC provides animal control services for all of Portage County. There are three animal control officers employed and paid for with tax dollars.
“Tax dollars cover the cost of the animal control officers,” said Executive Director, Ron Blaha. “But those dollars do not cover the care of the animals. All of that is covered by donations.”
“We need more than just donations of money and materials,” said Jarman. “We will always need donations of time.”
For more information on the HSPC volunteer program, visit their website at http://www.hspcwi.org