Animal shelter closing may be permanent Duplication of services enables nonprofit group to rethink its mission

September 19, 1995|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

The Animal Welfare Society of Howard County has closed its shelter's doors and may never reopen them to animals, the nonprofit group's president said yesterday.

While the society obtains estimates for renovating its 51-year-old building in Columbia's Long Reach village, it is also considering scrapping its animal adoption services -- which essentially duplicate services at the newer, county-funded Animal Control next door, said Shelly Deltuva, president of the society's 10-member board.

The Animal Welfare Society closed Friday for a undetermined length of time so the building -- and mission -- could undergo construction, she said.

The building has been in operation since 1944 and needs renovation, Ms. Deltuva said. "It's not as beautiful or modern as the Animal Control facility right next door," she said.

The society's operation is a smaller, nonprofit version of the county-funded Animal Control, which is responsible for caring for homeless animals, as well as investigating attacks, cruelty and neglect of wildlife and domestic animals.

Tension has existed between the two operations since December, when Howard County police -- who also operate Animal Control -- raided the society's facility with a warrant and seized several animals because of allegations of neglect and cruelty.

Ms. Deltuva said she's not aware of any charges that may have been filed against the society in the incident, but the group's morale still suffered. With the addition of five new members to the board last month, the healing process has begun, she said.

Animal Control has agreed to board three dogs -- the only animals housed at the society's building -- during the group's reorganization. The society still has retained responsibility for finding adoptive homes for the three pets, Ms. Deltuva said.

The welfare society building, which houses and provides adoption services for unwanted pets, may be closed for a few months, if not longer. When the facility reopens, it may focus more on low-cost programs such as spay and neuter clinics and other educational efforts, instead of pet adoptions, she said.

"We may decide to work on animal advocacy without doing adoptions. I don't think we need to rush back into it," Ms. Deltuva said.

The society's closing will not affect Animal Control at all, said Jim Boller, the facility's field supervisor. "We do everything they did and more," he said.

The closing occurred sooner than the 10-member board expected when the facility's managers, a mother and daughter team, suddenly resigned last month so they could relocate out of state, Ms. Deltuva said. Left without someone to manage the facility on a day-to-day basis, the board opted to close it immediately.

"That's why we're doing the renovations now," she said, adding that the primary task is to modernize the building's ventilation system.

The group has hired contractors to survey the building and provide cost estimates, but Ms. Deltuva suspects the group may not have the cash on hand to follow through with its plans.

As a remedy, the group plans to brainstorm on fund-raising ideas, write proposals to grant programs and solicit contributions from county residents to raise the money needed to have the work done, she said.

"This is a new opportunity for the Animal Welfare Society," Ms. Deltuva said. "We want to get back to the business of helping animals. We've been through hard times."

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