Monday night’s meeting of the Humane Society of Perry was a mixture of continuity and change, with longtime President Abby Benifiel’s newly announced intention to step down Oct. 1 after 12 years at the head of the society strengthening the nonprofit group’s determination to carry on the successful programs begun under Benifiel.
Vice President Breanna Gonzalez will serve as interim president until next April’s election of officers. Betty Field will serve as vice president, Judy Dunn as treasurer, Iris Coffin as secretary and Dorothea Peterson will continue as the feline coordinator for the society.
Gonzalez praised Benifiel for her devotion to Perry’s animal populations.
“Abby was a great leader for us,” she said. “I’m sure I can speak for many. She is very knowledgeable and has a ton a resources. That’s critical when it comes to working with such a large number of people and such a diverse group of people and animals. This is a 24-hour job all year long. It’s also a thankless job. It’s difficult not to get burned out. You have to know when to take breaks for your own well being. I’m grateful for the time I was able to be vice president with Abby. She continues to teach me each time we visit.”
Topping the new-business agenda was the subject of a contract with the city of Perry by which the Humane Society will manage cleaning and caring for the city’s dog pound, called the Perry Animal Holding Facility. The society wants to replace the verbal agreement with the city that ended in May with a more formal arrangement.
“I would like to see us repair that relationship with the city,” Gonzalez said. “Volunteer burnout was probably the biggest” reason for the contract’s ending, but there was “also a lot of miscommunication” with the city.
She said she has been looking at other’s humane societies’ formal contracts, which typically spell out the city’s responsibility for keeping the holding facility in good repair and covering the cost of care of the animals, including a daily rate for resident animals.
“With most of these contracts, they charge a fee-per-animal-per-day,” she said. “Some humane societies get to keep that entire fee, and some of them split it 50-50.”
In a typical contractual arrangement, if a stray dog or cat is claimed by its owner, the owner pays a fine for coming to the shelter and claiming the animal and also a per-day boarding fee — $10 is usual — for up to seven days. The city typically splits the fee with the humane society, with the society covering the cost of food, flea and tick treatments and other needs, such as emergency medical treatment.
“So that is something that is a work in progress at this point,” Gonzalez said. “We need to get that figured out and get it put into wording, so I think it will be important for us to have a work session to get that contract figured out and then present it to the city.”
The subjects of volunteer recruitment and fundraising led to much lively discussion among the attendees.
“If we don’t get a lot of volunteers to help us now, it’s going to happen again,” said one Humane Society of Perry member, “because you can’t do it all yourself.”
Volunteers over age 18 are always needed to help clean the Perry Animal Holding Facility dog kennels and to feed and water the animals, with dog walking an added perk. Similar duties need performing at the Cattery at 1007 Willis Ave., the state-certified, 25-head-maximum cat shelter in downtown Perry.
Discussion was also animated on the subject of building a new Humane Society of Perry animal shelter. Strategies for fundraising were shared before talk turned to a renewed interest in the proposed shelter’s blueprints.
Discussion reached a joyous crescendo with the prospect of the Humane Society of Perry entering a float or vehicle in the Perry High School Homecoming Parade scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 6 p.m.
Gonzalez spoke to the energy and enthusiasm of the society as the meeting neared an end.
“My hopes for the Humane Society moving forward,” she said, “are that we can build a solid, reliable volunteer base that is large enough to have a volunteer coordinator, a foster coordinator and a fundraising/event committee, enough people to delegate tasks out and so avoid volunteer burnout. My plan to do this is to build good rapport with the community and many partners within the rescue community to encourage people to want to volunteer and be involved. There are so many ways for people to be involved. It starts with coming to a meeting to learn how and where it best fits to get started.”
The next meeting of the Humane Society of Perry is Sept. 21 at 5:30 p.m. at the Perry Public Library. New members are always welcome. The society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity. Membership is dues free.