The Spay/Neuter program
The HSLC began working with the Spay/Neuter Program almost from the
beginning. The program is offered to the public through HSLC and the
Animal Protective League of Springfield. It allows families to take
advantage of a needed service at a reduced price. At the same time,
the program serves the community in that it reduces the number of
animals that families find themselves unable to care for. And,
animals that come to the shelter are spayed or neutered as part of
the adoption process, so families can know that they are adopting
one animal, with no potential for litters down the road.
The program started with only a few animals in the first years, but
it grew to a high point of 400 to 500 animals per year. Now, the
number is falling. That is a good sign from the HSLC viewpoint
because as Burbage and Stevens noted, it signifies that there are
fewer animals in need of the service.
Stevens and Burbage spoke about the way the program started with
meeting up with the Animal Protective League in the Steak-n-Shake
parking lot. Pets would be unloaded for HSLC volunteer vehicles into
the APL vehicles and sent off to Springfield. The weather could be
good, bad, wet, cold, snowy, icy, whatever, and they were there to
make the exchange.
Nowadays, the two parties meet at Big R in Lincoln. Burbage said it
was another one of those generous contributions that people don’t
often know has happened. The Big R is now located in what used to be
Wal-Mart before the Super Store opened. On the west end of that
building is a garage-like area with overhead doors. Burbage and
Stevens said that now, the HSLC takes the dogs and cats to that part
of the store where they can be taken inside out of the elements to
await loading into the APL vehicle. The women said this is a big
thing that Big R does for them, their volunteers, and the animals,
and it is greatly appreciated by all of them.
Dogs and cats can be taken to Springfield, and there is a fee
involved, but it is less than the fee that might be charged by a
veterinarian. Fees are based on the species, sex, and sometimes
breed of the animal. To participate, pet owners can contact the HSLC
and reserve a spot on the next transport. These events take place
once a month.
The “humane investigator” program is vitally important to the
well-being of animals, but for those who volunteer, it is a big
investment. First, there is an education and certification process
that each volunteer must go through. But then, once they are on
duty, the investigative process, though not physically demanding,
can be very draining emotionally.
Stevens said in addition, humane investigators are mandated
reporters in the state of Illinois. She explained, there may be
instances when a case of animal abuse or neglect is reported, and
once the investigator gets there, they realize that this abuse or
neglect is also apparent among children in the family. When child
abuse is suspected, the humane investigator is obligated to report
this to the Department of Child and Family Services. Likewise, the
DCFS reports to the Humane Society suspicions of animal neglect or
abuse when they make family visits.
It was explained, that the HSLC cannot just walk into a home a take
a pet away. There is a process that must be followed that includes
warning the pet owner and advising them to adjust the way they are
treating their animal. They must document the neglect or abuse,
including photographing the animal, and interviewing the owners.
They make multiple follow-up visits, each time determining if
conditions are improving, and giving written warnings of what needs
to be done to improve the situation.
Stevens noted that these could be tense situations sometimes, to the
point that perhaps the police are needed to accompany the
investigator to the home. She noted that the cooperation the HSLC
gets from the Lincoln Police Department is remarkable. She said
whenever the investigators call for assistance; the department is
always eager to help.
At the moment the HSLC has four investigators, but it needs to add
at least one more for next year. Stevens explained that because the
job can be emotionally draining, investigators need to be able to
take a break from the job. Adding another person to the list would
be very helpful.
A food pantry for pets
It isn’t something we think about often, but situations that affect
the well-being of humans, also impact their pets. For example, the
loss of an income can impact the family in a very negative way,
making it hard for them to pay their bills, keep a roof over their
heads, or even put food on the table. Families in these types of
situations have to make tough choices, do they pay the rent or buy
food for their children. When pets are involved, this becomes an
extra burden to the already stressed household.
At the HSLC, the ultimate goal is to keep pets happy and healthy,
and keep them with their families whenever possible. To that end, a
shelter is a place where pet owners can come and get pet food and
supplies in a time of need.
Wheat and Burbage also commented, that again, this program is
dependent upon community support. The pet products that are utilized
in the pantry are from donated supplies, as is much of the food that
is given to resident animals.
Among the many who help support this
program are the children at New Holland-Middletown School. As a part
of their community giving program at the school, at least once a
year the children host a drive to benefit HSLC. They collect items
needed for the shelter - food, litter products, paper towels,
laundry soap and more. The items are given to the shelter, first to
use for the resident pets, but secondly to make it possible for the
shelter to help out a family when the need arises.
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In the weekly newsletters, the HSLC also asks for donations of pet supplies.
Folks do help out, sometimes picking up a bag of dog food or some cat litter and
dropping it off at the shelter when they go shopping.
Having the food pantry is part of the ultimate goal of the HSLC to have pets
live in happy, healthy homes with loving families. When an adult is unemployed
and unable to provide for the family, the family pet can sometimes be the first
thing that has to go, because it does cost money to keep a pet. If the HSLC can
help in this manner, that takes at least one burden from the family.
What the HSLC cannot do
Some may not realize it, but the HSLC is not a place that can take in stray
animals. It happens from time to time. Folks move and can’t take their animal
with them, or they have a pet they no longer want, and instead of bringing it to
the shelter, they turn it loose to roam the streets and fend for itself. These
animals often end up causing a disturbance in the neighborhood, or take up
residence in abandoned buildings. Burbage explained that the HSLC cannot be
called to come and catch an animal and shelter it. That is the job of the Animal
Control program. It was also explained that Animal Control could, however, give
a pet over to the HSLC under specific circumstances.
Stevens said, once an animal is taken in at the Animal Control, there is a
period where an owner can come and claim the animal, but if the animal is not
claimed, the Animal Control may contact HSLC to take in the abandoned pet.
Burbage said that the Animal Control organization in Logan County has been very
good to work with and does what it can to save animals from euthanasia.
Woofstock, why are we moving?
As mentioned earlier, Woofstock is coming up, and this year it will be in a new
location. The annual dog event started out small and was first held at Kickapoo
Park. The goal, Burbage said was to hold an event that puts the HSLC in the
spotlight in the community, draws attention to the animals that are up for
adoption, and raises money to keep the shelter running. It was a chance for the
HSLC to say "Thank you" to a community that supports it so well, by offering a
free and fun day-long family event.
When the event moved to Latham Park, it continued to grow with vendors coming in
that sold their wares, food offerings, live music and much more. The event has
continued to grow and be a big part of the larger fundraising picture.
Burbage said this year it is moving again, and the reason comes down to “Don’t
tempt Mother Nature.” This is the fifth Woofstock. The first four have all been
held outdoors, with no alternate location or time if the weather were bad. Thus
far, every year, the weather has been good, but Burbage said the tide might
change someday, and like many other outdoor events, a rainy day means no
Burbage said that when the topic came to where to hold the event, the Logan
County Fairgrounds was a natural fit for its evolution. She said the Logan
County Fair Board members were great to work with in getting the space, and this
year, vendors will be located inside the event building at the south end of the
fairgrounds. She said there are plans to have family and pet activities outside
and activities inside as well, so it should be another great day in the Lincoln
This year, there has been a King and Queen Contest going on through social media
that will crown a top dog in both the female and male categories. She said that
Slightom had handled that, as well as a great deal of the other organization of
the event. The contest included the nomination of pets on social media, and then
consequent voting. The male and female dogs with the most votes will be crowned
How do they do it all?
With an organization that is made up of 99 percent volunteers and only one paid
employee, that serves an entire county, and even beyond, how does the HSLC keep
going? And, how do they manage to afford to do all the things they do? How do
they manage to accomplish it all? For Burbage, the answer is short and sweet;
dedicated volunteers and a very supportive community.
In the final segment of this series, the three women, all volunteers, will talk
about the importance of the volunteer program, as well as the value of the
support of the entire community.