By Micaela Colonna
Mason Times staff writer
Ingham County Animal Control & Shelter hosted its annual Humanitarian Awards Banquet on Thursday, March 13, at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing.
The event, which included an auction and dinner, awards volunteers, media, companies, law enforcement and veterinarians in Ingham County who made substantial contributions to the shelter in 2013.
“Most of our awards go to the volunteers,” said Ashley Hayes, volunteer coordinator for the animal shelter. “But we also have media personnel who do stories on animal welfare, law enforcement officials who have helped out, and vets that have done pro bono work, offering free services to the shelter or people in the community.”
Barbara Paul received this year’s Beebe Humanitarian Award, the highest honor given to a volunteer. A member of the Dog Walking Club, Paul said she’s always had a soft spot for dogs.
“It’s quite an honor, and I am really thankful for the wonderful staff and volunteers at Ingham County Animal Control,” Paul said. “I feel that it’s important, even for 10 minutes, that the dogs can get out of the shelter environment and just be dogs. They can roll around in the grass, sun themselves, run and play. For that 10 minutes, their stress level goes down, and I think it makes them more adoptable.”
Without its volunteers, the shelter could not fund spay and neuter programs, animals would not have the proper care and socialization and adoption rates would drop. They bathe, feed and water the animals, scoop waste and assist veterinarians with surgeries or cruelty cases.
“The volunteers are the foundation of the shelter,” said Michelle Jelinek, the shelter’s dispatch redemption clerk. “And if we didn’t have them, we couldn’t survive. They foster, volunteer their time, help with adoptions on Whisker Wednesdays, administer the exit physicals, help with paperwork and spread the word when we have a lost or found dog.”
Jelinek has been afraid of dogs since the age of 5 when a German Shepherd bit her. Despite needing 75 stitches, she said she wouldn’t work anywhere else.
“It’s in my heart and my gut,” Jelinek said. “I want to help, whether it’s animals or people, and you get to do both here. We help people retrieve their animals, adopt them out and just make them happy.”
Under former Director Jamie McAloon Lampman and the volunteers, the shelter did not have to euthanize any animals in 2013 because of overcrowding. However, there continues to be a need for adoptive and foster parents.
“They come in as great dogs,” said volunteer Sheri Eldred. “But after being there month after month, the stress doesn’t bode well for them. That’s why the foster program is so important. We can get the dogs out of the shelter before they get to that point, so they don’t have to be put down.”
Eldred is a member of the Dog Walking Club and the Woofer Walk Committee, a medically trained volunteer, a foster parent and the owner of 11 pets. Recognizing the need to help animals in the community, she became an adoptive and foster parent.
“I think no matter what you do in life, it’s important to give back,” Eldred said. “When I get out of work, I take care of animals. I’m the last to eat and the last to sit down, but my passion is animals. I think it’s a good way to keep your karma in line and do something good in the community.”