As the residents in Danville might be aware, the four-year battle to reform the Danville Humane Society recently reached a critical point, when nine of the 11 board members resigned, and it was discovered that the director of the Humane Society had been euthanizing animals without proper license.
The result was the immediate suspension and subsequent dismissal of the director, and a reorganization of the board with the remaining members and a temporary appointee.
The battle for reform has been waged by an incredibly dedicated, caring and persistent group of citizens from Danville and the surrounding area — all are exceptionally strong animal advocates. Were it not for their dogged pursuit of better conditions in the facility, as well as more accountability and transparency, the same dreadful situation that existed would still be in place.
Numerous reforms have already been made, and many more are being coordinated at this very moment. For instance, rescue organizations are being contacted, and a coordinated effort is being made to get as many animals as possible into a loving home or other location where adoption would be more likely. That is a tangible change in the operational philosophy of the Humane Society. Previously, when faced with overpopulation, animals were simply euthanized to create more space. Sadly, no internal effort was made to actively find the animals a home.
The new board members personally find that practice to be morally indefensible, and will not allow the society to do that again.
The new Danville Humane Society Board of Directors is working closely with advisers from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the University of Illinois’ Shelter Medicine program to modernize the Humane Society’s shelter’s operations and practices. These individuals are true experts, and the collaborations are invaluable sources of insight, advice, logistical help and moral support.
For many years, the Danville Humane Society has been synonymous with the animal control services the city contracted with the organization to provide, and many people considered that service a revenue source. In reality, the city has gotten by with under-funding the service for years, and it took a toll on the finances of the Humane Society. The industry standard for funding municipal animal control services, according to the International City & County Management Association in 2004 (the most recent source we had available) was $4 per capita. Thus, with a population of 32,649, to properly fund an animal control service, the city should offer a contract worth at least $130,000 a year. The Humane Society has been operating on a contract from the city that is about 73,000 a year.
So, the Humane Society has effectively been underwriting roughly $57,000 a year of the cost of providing animal control services. In other words, the DHS has been paying the city to perform animal control, not the other way around.
Obviously, no organization can operate at a constant loss and keep its doors open. The Humane Society recognizes the moral and ethical need for a viable animal control service in all communities. However, it is the obligation of a city government to provide such services to its citizens. The Danville Humane Society is a private 501c3 corporation and is in no way compelled to provide those services to the city unless it so chooses, and is fairly compensated. To continue losing more than $50,000 a year would bankrupt the organization.
In addition, the facilities and staff, and staff training levels for continued animal control services were woefully inadequate. Our capacity for sheltering animals was near full, and would be overflowing quickly with constant intake through animal control, thus creating even poorer conditions for the animals.
We realize the emotional reaction to ending our participation in animal control, but we had to do what was best for the Humane Society so that we can take truly “humane” care of the animals in our care in the future.
Finally, I heard many previous board members say we cannot turn this facility around in just a few months, or even a few years, when significant changes were suggested. I simply did not believe that and was shocked at the resistance to significant change.
I want residents to know great changes in procedures and intake care are already being instituted and will continue to improve, physical plant renovations are being planned, and remaining staff are being trained on how to properly operate an animal shelter. In addition, we hope to be greatly aided by a strong volunteer force. Volunteerism is a vital key to the future of the Humane Society, with enough reliable and dedicated volunteers many of the goals and aspirations that have for so long been only a dream, will finally become reality.
We are the Humane Society of Danville, and now more than ever the concerned citizens of Danville are needed to help re-make the Humane Society into an organization the community can finally be proud of. We believe that, if better is possible — good, is not enough. Come help us be great!
My turn Steve Houghton is president of the Danville Humane Society Board of Directors