It can be hard to take care of a pet, but pets are family, according to the Ingham County Animal Shelter and Community Outreach Center. Its facilities were designed to assist families and help pets find loving homes.
The shelter opened in 1971 and the outreach center in 2016. Both centers are linked to provide a wide range of services for families and animals.
“The outreach center is fairly new and was donated from the county. The house used to be a drug house and was donated to us for $1,” said Brian Youk, intern and volunteer at the outreach center.
The outreach center was built to help Ingham families who cannot afford to raise their pet. It has low-cost spay and neuter vouchers for cats and dogs, vaccine clinics, licensing for dogs, and a food bank. Ingham County gave the center a grant to afford these services.
Youk said the outreach center’s goal is to help the community and help animals who may not have food, be able to enjoy a meal.
“A lot of people come in for our food bank and we check their license to see if they are a resident of Ingham County. We don’t check to see if someone has low income, but some people try to trick the system by using a different address. We try to track these things, but we can’t always catch if someone is lying,” Youk said.
Deputy director of the animal shelter Kate Turner said, “We take in about 3,000 animals annually because the shelter is open admission. This means we cannot turn an animal away because we do not have space.”
“There was one incident where we were full, but we got a call and picked up 100 cats and kittens. It was a challenge, but we made it work,” Turner said.
The only way an animal would be turned away would be if it has behavioral problems prior to coming to the shelter. For example, if a dog is prone to biting people, then it is considered a public safety hazard, which leads to the dog being euthanized. Euthanizing is the shelter’s last resort and an animal hasn’t been euthanized there in six years.
On Tuesday evening, Ingham County Chairperson Bryan Crenshaw said the shelter had a stressful year for employees. They were taking in more animals than they had space for and were giving 110 percent every day. The commissioners made a resolution to honor every employee and volunteer at the shelter.
The animal shelter’s mission is to help animals who came in with a hard life, leave with a better one.
“Seeing an animal who had a rough start, blossom and come out of their shell warms my heart. When they get adopted to a loving home, it makes my heart melt even more,” Turner said.
Youk said, “It makes me feel good knowing that by giving up some of my time, I am hands-on helping people who may be homeless, retired or struggling.”
Although the shelter and center are joined, they play different roles. The shelter’s job is to save pets, whereas the center assists pet owners in Ingham County. The key difference is that the outreach center is more human interaction, where the animal shelter is more animal interaction.
Mason resident John Huntington, who is out of work, was picking up food from the outreach center. He said he was thankful for the free food he received for his dog. He said he was embarrassed to pick the food up himself, so he would have his friend do it for him.
“Dog food isn’t too expensive, but the $30 goes a long way. When I was out of work, I had to clench onto every dollar I had, and the outreach center made that possible,” Huntington said.
The center’s food bank offers bags of dog and cat food for free up to three times per year. However, if someone needs more assistance, it will provide more.
“I was a bit ashamed having to go to the food bank, but the people there were so helpful and encouraging,” Huntington said.
Both places are open for donations and volunteers. They hope to continue changing lives and helping others in any way possible.
Turner said, “It is amazing being able to help someone, whether it is a person or animal. It is in our hearts to be able to make a difference. From an animal lover’s view, we can’t change the world, but we can change the world of that person or animal. We will keep striving until we reach that goal.”