BLACKFOOT — The Bingham County Humane Society is hoping for a Christmas miracle. The rent on the society’s current building is doubling in January. The change, board members say, would “make it difficult” to keep its doors open.
The Bingham County Humane Society provides shelter, medical treatment and care for abandoned, neglected and unwanted cats in the Blackfoot area. It has been operating out of the building at 766 South Broadway in Blackfoot for about 10 years. However, that may be about to change.
The landlord, who has kept rent the same for those years, will double the rent starting in January. The rent increase, coupled with soaring vet costs and increased owner surrenders, means there just isn’t enough money to go around.
Increased Operating Costs
The humane society isn’t funded by the county. As a 501c3, the organization relies on donations, volunteers and foster homes. The board of directors isn’t paid, nor are any of the caregivers. Instead, donations go toward the cats in its care, the low-cost spay/neuter voucher program and the Trap-Neuter-Release program funded by the organization.
Donations also pay for each animal in the humane society’s care to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped before being adopted.
Besides rent and vet costs, the general cost of operating is going up.
“We also have increased utility costs this time of year, and of course litter. We use a lot of litter,” Jennifer Andrew, president of Bingham County Humane Society, tells EastIdahoNews.com.
The organization doesn’t charge to take cats surrendered by owners like many rescues or shelters do. Volunteers field numerous calls every day from people wanting to bring in their cats, she says. However, like other shelters and rescue organizations in the area, the Bingham County Humane Society is running at over-capacity levels.
This year, the Bingham County Humane Society has taken in 151 cats. Forty-six of those are currently being housed in its building, and another 22 cats are in foster homes — that’s a staggering 68 felines to feed, vet and care for. Volunteers have had to start turning people down.
“It’s hard to turn them away because we know a large percentage, especially the kittens, will not make it through the year,” Andrew says. “Seventy-five percent of kittens born outside will die before they’re a year old.”
Costs to the Community
The humane society’s low-cost spay/neuter program, which helps keep animals out of shelters, would also have to end if it’s forced to close. Also on the line is the Trap Neuter Release (TNR) program, which helps folks caring for feral cats.
With both programs, Bingham County residents can purchase vouchers for a spay/neuter directly from the Bingham County Humane Society. Partner veterinarians accept the vouchers, and animal lovers with limited or lower incomes can get their pet — or the local stray — fixed.
Good, kind-hearted people don’t mind taking care of stray cats, but it can be overwhelming when they start multiplying, Andrew says.
“It’s not fair to the cats or the people for them to have to pay money out of their pocket to help prevent overpopulation,” she points out. “We try to help ease that burden.”
But providing the vouchers isn’t without a cost for the humane society. It has to pay vets more to offset the cost of a spay/neuter these days. This is a large part of the increasing vet bill making operations more expensive.
“Normally, we spend around $8,000 per year on the vouchers. This year, we’re at $14,000,” Andrew explains.
Without these programs, the community’s population of unwanted companion animals would increase drastically, she says.
Last year, the humane society sold 678 cat spay/neuter vouchers; this year, it’s already sold 690, according to Andrew.
“If you use the math that each cat can produce three litters a year, with an average litter of about four kittens, that’s 8,280 cats that were prevented from being added to the already cat-over-population problem, just this year,” Andrew points out.
Andrew, the board of directors and the volunteers hope the Bingham County Humane Society can remain open for many years to come and help many more cats.
“Our absolute dream would be to own a facility, but that would take an extraordinary event and support from the community,” she says.
Right now, they’re hoping to raise enough money to cover the increased rent costs and veterinarian bills.
If the humane society falls short with that goal, Andrew says she and the other volunteers would ensure the 68 cats currently in their care find good homes. However, in the future, all unwanted cats and kittens in Bingham County would be taken to the Blackfoot Animal Shelter.
The shelter is contracted with the county and runs at or above capacity much of the time, as well. It is also a kill shelter, which means animals are euthanized as space dictates.