As we turn over into a new year and a new decade, we want to take a moment and reflect on 2019. We are grateful for our wonderful, supportive community that helped us make 2019 a success!

It shaped up to be a busy year overall.

The Fort Defiance Humane Society (FDHS) employs the only humane agent servicing the Defiance County area. Unfortunately, we had a record-setting year in the area of animal cruelty in 2019. Stacie Fedderke responded to 225 potential animal abuse/neglect calls. Many of those calls led to further legal action, fines, restitution, forfeiture of animals, and other ramifications. Many thanks to our local law enforcement agencies for their help and support with many of these situations.

As for our normal business, we had over 450 dogs enter the shelter in 2019 with a 97% rehoming rate by the end of December. For our feline friends, we took in 153 and had an 88% rehoming rate. In addition, we partnered with Hope for Animals to provide 162 feline/canine low-cost spay/neuter options to our community.

Finally, Dr. Karen Pedden performed another 221 feline low-cost spay/neuters for the public right at the FDHS surgery suite, in addition to all the alternations, surgeries, etc. necessary for the shelter animals.

While we took in, rehabilitated, and rehomed many animals this year, we are equally proud of the fact that our euthanasia rate was only 1% — far below the national average of 20%-40%. While it pains us to have to euthanize any animal, we know it is only done out of necessity due to severe health or behavior conditions where no other option is available. Along with our typical canines and felines, we also had some other fun “guests,” including rabbits, ferrets, birds, guinea pigs and horses.

In addition to caring for all the animals, we were able to accomplish a host of other initiatives in 2019 such as:

• designed and implemented a new website

• introduced new marketing materials

• implemented a new volunteer program

• participated in the multi-county “Paws Project” — assisting victims of domestic violence by housing their animals while they get back on their feet.

• purchased new elevated dog beds and new stainless-steel cat kennels thanks to a Defiance Area Foundation grant.

• organized another successful “big” fundraiser, our Howl-o-ween Masquerade Ball.

• raised funds to complete the fourth row of new dog kennels. Installation begins in January.

• conducted a needs/facilities assessment study through Shelter Planners of America.

This study provided us with a lot of valuable data including what size and capacity we should be working with as a shelter and how our shelter compares statistically to others nationally. While the study found a definite need for more space overall, we are proud to share that it also found our shelter operates in line with or well above others across the country.

As we look ahead to 2020, our goals are aligned to our mission and will focus on the following:

• continuing to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome the abandoned, abused, and neglected animals in our area. We are implementing a new system called “How I Met My Dog” that helps us better match dogs and people based on a host of variables.

• pushing forward to eradicate animal abuse in our area and helping to strengthen animal cruelty legislature. We are their voice.

• strengthen security for our humane agent.

• rolling out our planned giving program — the Willie Wales Friend for Life Society, named after a local hero.

• enhancing our online outreach and social media platform.

• offering more low-cost health and wellness options to our community.

• providing low-cost spay/neuter options to our community for cats and dogs — right at our FDHS facility.

• looking for ways to expand our capacity to better serve our “residents” and our community.

• increasing grant writing capabilities.

While we are operationally and financially strong as we start 2020, we cannot take one day off from fundraising. The non-profit space is much different than that of Corporate America. We are very proud of our progress over the last two years, but we do not take our current position for granted.

We would not be where we are today without the tremendous help and support of so many in our community, our board, and especially our awesome team of employees and volunteers. You must have a special “something” to do this kind of work. Our employees and volunteers have that “something.”

They treat every one of those animals as they do their own. Whether it’s sleeping at the shelter during the polar vortex, making them special food to help them heal, sitting in the kennels to calm those that are scared, fostering the ones too little to be at a shelter, or taking them for a special walk at the reservoir. That is what makes the difference each and every day!

Thank you Defiance!

(Lisa Weaner is the executive director of the Justin F. Coressel Animal Shelter in Defiance County which is operated by the Fort Defiance Humane Society.)

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