The Bangor Humane Society champions the humane treatment and adoption of companion animals, provides quality care for homeless pets, and promotes animal welfare through education and advocacy. They strive to facilitate the human-animal bond by re-homing and rehabilitating homeless pets with humans through pet adoption. As the world of animal welfare continues to evolve, the staff at BHS are committed to adapting and changing with it so they can continue to be a vital part of the community in which they operate.
Welcome to the ARPA Animal Shelter of the week podcast where we introduce you to incredible organizations around the country that are focused on helping animals. We’re proud to be sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal shelter.
The Bangor Humane Society has served over 200 communities in Northern and Eastern Maine since 1869. Since their opening, they have faced many struggles but today they currently operate at a 95% live release rate. The staff, volunteers and community partners work effortlessly every day to provide quality care to animals and offer second chances by matching pets into new, loving homes. Everyone at BHS strongly believes that every match made is a life saved.
Hey Stacy, welcome to the show. Hi Rachel, thanks for having me really excited to have you. So you are with Bangor Humane Society. And that is in these state of Maine. Why don’t you kick us off and tell us a little bit about Bangor and what the history is? Sure. Absolutely. It’s kind of an exciting time for us. This is our 150th anniversary in the community, so we’re really excited to have an opportunity to talk about who we are and kind of how we got here. Our formal mission at the Bangor Humane society is that we champion the humane treatment, an adoption of companion animals, provide quality care for homeless pets and promote animal welfare through education and advocacy.
And we actually started doing that back in 1869. For those who might know a little bit of Maine history, Bangor area was a big logging community, and in the 1800’s it was actually driving. That was the driving force of our economy. But while that boosted us, you know, in a financial aspect there was also a very transient population that that brought, and it also resulted in the increased abandonment of, actually both children and animals in our community. So back in 1869, a group of concerned citizens kind of gathered together to kind of create a society to help prevent the cruelty of both animals and children. So most people are shocked to find out that when we began, we actually were a society that housed orphans, children and homeless pets. So that’s quite an interesting start of how he began. And it actually makes Bangor Humane Society one of the first in both the state of Maine and the nation, to take an active interest in addressing the welfare of homeless pets and orphan children.
But obviously, you know, as time kind of evolved in the early 1900’s, the mission kind of split. More organizations were coming together to focus on children, so we allowed that separation toe happen, and we focused on animals. So in the 60’s, we had an actual formal shelter that began. Quickly, we learned we were too big for what we were in. We were taking in about 10,000 animals at the time. Wow. The animal welfare looks very different back then. Yeah. So then, in 1996 after a very vigorous capital campaign, we created the shelter that we’re in now, and that was a $2.5 million project that kind of built this whole new space gave us a lot more opportunities. We partnered with the City of Bangor in 2012.
We participated with the ASPCA National Challenge event where they challenge shelters from across the country, to really get creative in changing the conversation around adoption and becoming more open and inviting into our communities, where we actually really opened our doors and asked and invited people to come and adopt and shifted the way we thought about animal welfare. We’d participated in that event and it was a huge success for us locally. And it has now help just not only really become a facility that people look to, to choose their next pet. But where we’ve really grown a lot of community partnerships out of to achieve the 95% annual release rate that we have now.
That’s quite the history. I don’t know that that much has ever been shared previously with me in a conversation, but obviously in 150 years there’s a lot of history. Yes. Yes. There’s a lot of changes that happened in that time, but it’s very cool. The progression of that and where you guys are at now. And you mentioned a 95% live release rate? That’s incredible. It is incredible. Yeah, when did you guys achieve that? And how many years has that been going for you? So I’ve been with the Humane Society since 2011. Okay. We definitely were probably closer to being in the 70 percentile back then. About 20 years ago this fall our live release rate was only about 50%. So you had a 50/50 shot. If you were an animal coming in here, that you were gonna make it out into a family.
Our 95% live release rate, we achieved that at the end of our last fiscal year, which ended April 30th of 2019. But that has been a lot of efforts in the community to not only become more creative and open, and our adoption policies were also rigorous spay and neuter. We have a very sustainable spay and neuter program that we helped put funds into the community into low income household so that people can more affordably spay and neuter their pets, preventing unwanted litters from coming to the shelter. But we also spay and neuter every single animal that leaves our building. So that has really helped decrease in take numbers that we see coming through our doors, allowing us to redirect those resources to those animals who come to us most in need medically and behaviorally.
When did that become a focus for you? And how did it become a focus for you? You know, was it the community asking for help? Was it your local government? How did that come about? I think it was a combination of all things. I’m very proud to live in a state where our state government really has always been behind animal welfare and has been a proactive advocate for, you know, animals in need. And so they had a statewide spay and neuter program. Okay. And I’m not sure how long that’s been going on. There has been a group of professionals, so it’s made up of directors from the different shelters and rescues and humane societies from across the state called the Main Federation of Humane Societies. And they came together and works with local government to basically say, you know, “here we are in the shelter we’re reacting to the number of animals coming in. But if we don’t travel up the stream and kind of stop where the flow of animals are coming from, then we’re never gonna get out of this cycle.”
So that leadership conversation that happened with the professionals that were in sheltering with the government lead to a statewide program called Help Fix Me that gave funds, especially for us, it’s been always more of a cat problem that’s been the major issue, directing to decreasing the intake of cats in shelters. But at the same time, we recognize that we need to do something locally. It is a state law here, I mean, the animals that are adopted out of a shelter be spayed and neutered. There’s lots of different ways that that can look, and that could happen. We then decided, fortunately, with lots of donor support and wonderful foundations that supports and understands that sort of ideology around stopping and slowing the intake of the population that we were serving, that it’s just really important to help those who have animals currently that absolutely are great pet owners that love their animals but can’t afford the several hundred dollars to spay and neuter.
So we’ve invested some of our own funds, but a lot of it is we apply every year for grant support that allows us to give about every year on average, $40,000 to $45,000 into the community to qualifying low income individuals to help them spay and neuter their pets as well. That’s quite the program and dedication. To have to apply every year for grants to continue to support your community is a huge commitment. And I love that you guys are really sticking to that. Because sometimes what an organization sees as necessary, the community might not necessarily agree.
So how was that taken by the community? In order to be fair to our veterinarian partners, we didn’t want to totally isolate our veterinarian community by taking business away or impacting their bottom line too much. So we’ve kind of worked together with our veterinarian community to say “what’s realistic for you guys to offer as a discount? What if we create this voucher program? How can we work together so that you feel good about it?” You’re helping us in the community, but we’re not really offering a detrimental impact on their bottom line. And then, of course, one of the things that we agreed upon was that people had to qualify. So you have to show us yet you’re low income status for many in the community there are people who kind of fall in between but are really great pet owners and could use the help and support. Yeah. So we do what we can just. But then we also encourage people that if they’re looking for an animal, then go to a shelter that does spay and neuter before they get place into a home. Because then that helps minimize those expenses on the front end of ownership.
So one of the things that you had mentioned earlier was the amount of cats that you guys have. I want to kind of talk a little bit about that and where your focus area is. I happen to see on your website that you have a Barn Buddies Program. And then you also mentioned FIV and FeLV adoptions. And so I want to spend a few minutes and kind of talk about the cats in Maine and what you guys are doing there. Absolutely. We taken nearly 3000 animals a year, and I would say thirds of that are cats. So the majority of what we do is managing and taking in, importing and adopting out cats. There’s quite a variety of personalities, and it’s hard to always tell in a shelter environment what cats will prefer, what kind of lifestyle with their personality, what would be a good fit. So we were at a place where we were really trying to shift our live release rate in a more positive direction, and when we’re able to decrease the intake of the number of cats and that we weren’t just constantly dealing with a population issue.
So now we have some breathing room. We’re not constantly overflowing with cats, so what can we do for the cats that we do have in our care? So we started making some decisions, and we kind of looked at other places in the country that we’re being creative and trying new things on. A lot of places in rural areas of the country had Barn Buddy Programs, so we piloted a Bard Buddy Program, and we’re looking for Great Mouser’s big warehouses that could provide a safe, dry place for cat. And it was a huge success, as that program has kind of grown and changed and shifted over the years. What we’ve learned is that there’s lots of different cat personalities out there so sometimes they’re a full barn buddy. Sometimes they’re a full domestic lap cat, and sometimes they’re somewhere in between.
So after our Barn Buddy Program pilot was a success, all of our cats get tested up front for FIV and FeLV. And the old philosophy and process and policy was that we had euthanize any cats that came back positive. But what we learned is that it doesn’t have to be a death sentence, and there are lots of people out there who want to open their homes. And they could give a cat a home and keep him indoors and minimize risk to other cats. It was more about Well, if we educate ourselves and if we educate our community, then maybe we can place these cats as well. And then equipping people with the knowledge of making sure they haven’t established that relationship of that something that our normal protocol doesn’t require. We don’t require that checks on the front of every adoption, but we do when it’s a special needs medical case like FeLV or FIV kind of case.
So we have those conversations. We educate people. We’ve put a lot of information on our website, and when we do, we have local news stations that have us on weekly for pet of the week segments where we feature different animals up for adoption. We’ll take a moment to feature some of these special needs and to talk about what this means for them long term, and often what it comes down to is they just might have a shorter life span. And we just talk with people about what that means and what that could look like and how they can give the best quality of life for the longest period of time while minimizing impact to other animals in their homer or the community.
So two programs based around cats now I don’t want to leave the dogs out. That would be unfortunate. So I do say that you guys have a dog’s day out program and I feel like this is one that’s becoming more and more popular as the time goes by. But tell me a little bit about how your program runs and how you guys came about that. When I started here about 10 years ago, Our formal volunteer program. One of the rewards if you came and walk dogs and cleans kennels. And we really trusted you and knew who you were was that you could sign one of our dogs out for the day. You could take them to your house for a slumber party. You can take them on a hike. You could do all these fun things with them. And it got to a point where, as the years sort of passed and we were able to invest more in the animals that are here behaviorally and medically, animals length of stay sometimes is longer than what we anticipate or hope.
For anybody who spent any time in a shelter. It is not a relaxing space, you know. Right. These are animals that are more sensitive to noise and smells, their senses are heightened. And so what we were noticing is Well, yes, we were willing to do whatever was necessary to help these animals until they were in homes. For some animals, they were just harder to place. They didn’t show well in their kennel. !e had this conversation, a management level, and, you know, and sometimes it was also hard to, you know, really encourage a really good adopters to take a chance on one of these harder to adopt animals. Sure.
So we were trying to thinking it creative. And we end up having this conversation of why is our dogs day out reserved just as this sort of like VIP club of people. Yeah. It didn’t really make sense. We will adopt you an animal, and you can go home with that animal without taking any offsite time, that didn’t make sense. But what if people could test drive a dog? Or what if people could spend some time and it helps us as a staff because we can’t always give them the socialization that they need. How about the stray dogs that we have no idea if they get along with other animals, what they’re like offsite on a leash, what they’re like in a car.
So we started to get creative. And, you know, there was a little bit of reservation with the direct care staff of just thinking, you know, “what if people steal our dogs?” So I’m like, “I don’t think anyone’s gonna take our dogs.” So basically, it’s a really simple protocol, people come in, they sign a waiver they give us their information, contact number. They give us a copy of their driver’s license and their license plate. Basically, we had a time a couple years ago where we had a couple of the dogs that were really wonderful dogs outside of the kennel, but weren’t showing well and their length of stay was causing them to deteriorate emotionally and mentally. And if we finally said, “well, we either try something new to give these animals some respite and some time and we didn’t have enough foster homes that were fit for the dogs that were in need.
So we said, “let’s just try this opportunity where community members can come in and sign a dog out for the day or we let him test drive.” Sure. So what’s been really wonderful about the program is now. I think that was about three years ago that was started and we’ve had over 1,000 people take a dog out for the day. Some of them did it once, and some are frequent flyers where they come, you know, regularly to take a dog out. So they sign a piece of paper. We then match them. We asked them questions almost like a shortened version of our pre-adoption survey of just kind of “what’s your experience level? What are you looking to do for an adventure today? What kind of dogs have you had in the past?” And we match them with dogs that are up for adoption that could use a break from the shelter. They sign them out for the afternoon. We give them a tote bag full of poop bags. Water treats toys from all that good stuff, and they can sign them out for an afternoon adventure, whether that means Netflix and chill on their couch at home and just giving them a low key den, or whether that means doing some hiking trails and having a buddy.
So what’s been great about it is we have a huge college population in our area. There’s several colleges, and, you know, college kids have best intentions they want to adopt, but it may not be the right lifestyle at this time for them to make that commitment, so this enables them to, have a dog companion and help their shelter. It allows people who don’t feel comfortable being in a shelter environment for those of us who were in it. We know it’s not easy work and it can be difficult, so it’s a way for people to help and give back. It’s also wonderful for people who have just a little bit of time in their life. They don’t necessarily have the ability to commit to 2 to 3 hours a week, but they could come in once a month and take a dog out. It’s also great for people who are tentative about adoption, who really want to take a chance on a job. But they’re concerned or they’re not sure they can take the dog off site and see it in a more relaxed natural environment. The worst case scenario is the dog comes back at the end of it adventure and is tired and happy and gets a goodnight sleep. Right. You know?
And then we get more information. We feel better because our dog’s have gotten out and they give us sort of a report card, so they tell us what they’ve done. You know how the adventure did and sort of what they noticed. As personality traits likes dislikes, and it helps us in the adoption process, so people feel good about it. It’s a fun program. We limit now until two. We only allow two animals at a time. It became so popular that one day all of our dogs were out. We had no dogs in the building to adopt, it’s great a problem to have. But we were like, “well, all of our dogs are on a dog day out right now.” So it’s just been really fun, and we’ve had knock on wood, we’ve had zero problems with it. If anything, it’s allowed people, I think, to fall in love with a personality, a breed mix, something that they wouldn’t have otherwise thought that they would fit with. And it also we can say, until we’re blue in the face. Do not judge a dog by how it behaves in a kennel, but people do not understand it until they experience it.
So when they get to look at a dog and see it acting crazy and baring its teeth, or being fearful in a kennel, and then they go out with it and the dog is snuggling with them or bounding outside on a trail. Yeah. They’re blown away about that change in behavior, and then they become advocates for us. It also allows us to expand our reach. These are people who are going out into different areas of the community where people may not come to us. So it’s bringing the dogs to them.
Either between the cat programs or the dog’s day out, did you encounter any barriers, any challenges and how do you overcome those? I’m not sure that I can think of any challenges that have come from those specific programs. Sure. Obviously, we have all kinds of challenges that I think the biggest thing sometimes is just people always feel like we’re judging them. When we say, no, this cat isn’t for you or this dog wouldn’t be a good candidate for you on Dog’s Day Out. And so people assume that we’re making it about them or we don’t like them or we’re just creating a barrier. Our philosophy at BHS is every match made is a life saved, and we believe that goes both ways.
No human, I believe, wants to go into a shelter and adopt an animal and fail that animal, and failure means it doesn’t work out, and they have to re-home it either on their own or bring it back to a shelter. That doesn’t feel good. There are small percentage of people that are just a hard no. You are a ‘do not adopt forever’ from us. But there are people that it’s more like it’s not a no, it’s just a no for this animal. Let’s find a different match. And so sometimes people get so focused on the ‘no’ that they don’t hear the ‘why.’ So that’s that—I think the biggest challenge is that we love and appreciate people who are willing to open their hearts and homes to the most challenging of animals that we have. But it’s not always the right fit.
So what other ways can you help? You can help by sharing their story, by volunteering, by making a donation, or help us by adopting another animal that is the right fit for you. Give that animal a home and allow us the space to help another animal. So trust our staff. Our staff work really hard to spend a lot of time with these animals and they really do want them to go into the best match possible. And that’s on both ends, because we want people to keep coming back to adoption, and if you have a negative experience, then you’re not gonna want to do that. It’s hard, though, to be in that position and be transparent. And so I appreciate you bringing that up as a challenge and talking about that.
So one of the things I actually wanna connect on here is you guys are up in Maine and I always hear of these Southern states overpopulated and they just don’t have enough space. Do you guys take animals from the Southern States? Being in Maine, I always hear people are sending animals up the coast right to that Northeast Corner. Are you guys are receiving organization? Are you working with Southern Partners, I guess, is my question. We are, we actually are very fortunate that this past year we received a very generous grant from the S.P.C.A. that funded a brand new customized animal relocation transport vehicle. Nice. So that has allowed us to take our transport program to the next level. Maine is a pretty flexible state that way.
A lot of the bigger shelters in Maine are transporting animals from all around the country, and some of them are doing internationally. So for us, while 2/3 of what we may take in our cats, our dogs have always kind of states consistent. We don’t see a big increase or decrease in our dog population. We see more of animals that are have higher needs, behaviorally or medically, and that’s expensive. It takes a lot of revenue, and resource is to work with animals with medical or behavioral needs. And so it’s kind of been a win-win for us because not only do we have a wonderful community that wants dogs, at the end of the day, we’re a nonprofit and we’re an animal rescue. But we also have to look at the bigger picture and look at ourselves as a business and our business is adoption, and we have to have something to offer people.
But we also have a really wonderful community that knows and is honest about what they can provide and just want a dog that doesn’t come with a lot of medical or behavioral. They just don’t have the resources or the skills to do that, but they also are really great pet owners and deserve to have a wonderful dog. So we work with different partners. One of our biggest partners is out of Georgia, but we’ve also worked with Mississippi and Alabama, and we’re always looking for new partners. And we take their dogs from overcrowded, high kill shelters mostly those that are, you know, puppies or highly adoptable dogs that would otherwise be euthanized. And we’ll bring them here as long as they’re healthy. Maine has very strict transport guidelines, so what most people don’t know is that when you’re looking into adoption or to rescue, make sure: 1) that the partner you’re working with is licensed in the state that they’re doing rescue in. But if they say they’re doing transport, they also have to have an importation license. So in Maine, we have to have two licenses.
We have to have a shelter license and we have to have an importation license. And there are rules that we have to follow. We have to have certain vaccines, make sure that we’re not bringing disease into the state or putting our population at risk. Then there’s a quarantine period, so we have fosters and space in the shelter. A lot of people are concerned that these transports take away from the community’s need, but we don’t. We make sure that we make those accommodations through foster care or space in our shelter. And once they’ve met their quarantine, they get spayed and neutered. If they don’t arrive already so. And then they get placed into new homes and nine times out of ten our transport dogs go very quickly.
Our Southern partners are always blown away by the fact that dog may have been in their shelter for months and been bouncing between foster homes so they could try to find a home and not have to have euthanasia as option. And then they come up here and within 24 to 48 hours they’re adopted. So it’s a pretty cool feeling, because years ago we were our Southern partners. We were on the end of being in a situation of having to make choices based on space or length of stay. So it feels really cool to be in a place where we can give back and help more animals. And not only is saving lives on the front end of those in the South, but it’s also the revenue that we are able to generate from their adoptions helps go directly into the care of the more in need animals up here. But it also allows us to expand and enrich the lives of the humans in our community. Because, let’s face it, we all have pets for a reason. Very cool.
So one of my favorite parts in this entire conversation is memorable stories. Is there one that stands out to you that you want to share? Oh, goodness, there’s so many of them. I think that all of our stories are really, really unique for me personally. I mean, I’ve obviously been touched personally by adoption. Every year we do an annual report, and we try to talk with people and highlight our adoption stories. And there’s always so many cool stories. But I think you know, one of my favorite stories is that in this year’s annual report that I’m working on. we were in a unique situation where we have worked with animal welfare and the state of animal welfare department throughout the decades, and it’s not always easy because they’re working on the front lines, going in and seizing animals that are the most often to be abused and neglected, and they don’t always win the court case. They sometimes go back to those owners.
And I remember shortly after I started here, the state of Maine seized over 40 huskies from private residents who were just severely, severely abused and neglected. I mean, anyone knows the Husky, you know what they look like and how they’re big and fluffy and rather large dogs. And these were dogs that came to us that were weighing like around 20 pounds, totally malnourished. They were like wild and feral dogs when they arrived. They just had never known people. And it was one of those things where sometimes in animal welfare. The hardest things to talk about are those are those instances. A lot of people think that that’s all we do. The reality is, the majority of what we do is just taking animals that are no longer a match for a person’s lifestyle, or they’re not able to provide care. And so they’re good-natured enough people and good intention people enough to know they need to bring them, if they can’t find a private adoption or re-homing, to bring them to a shelter where they can at least be safe, cared for and placed into a new home. Right.
But the hardest part is that small percentage of animals that are mistreated and that is a reality of what we do and often the public doesn’t see that front end and the rehabilitation work that goes into and the emotional toll and mental toll it takes on the staff. And so we have these dogs, we ended up taking four of the 40. We served as a triage location before the shelters across the state who are willing to take a few. And, you know, to be honest, this was my first experience with a seizure and witnessing it sort of front end. I just really didn’t see hope in these animals. I didn’t know how we could help them. I didn’t know how they could come back from that circumstance. Yeah. Especially into a home environment that I think about when I think about the kind of environment that a dog should live in. Sure,
And so we spent some time and they were with us for about five months. They got much better than where they were, but they still weren’t anywhere near to a place of being social. They were aggressive. They were just really fearful kind of wild dogs. We had to try adopting a couple of them into homes, but they bolted and ran away and escaped. And it wasn’t a fit for the people. So, fortunately, this is where I think our staff really shine, is that they never give up and we work with whatever resources that we have. And they started doing some research in to, to sled dog rescues. And I don’t know much about sled dogging. And I know that there’s positive and negatives. There’s the really great, wonderful world of sled dogs. Sure. And then there’s the real cool part.
So they did their research. They visited a rescue in New Hampshire and they took two of our Huskies and it was a huge success. They’ve done well. They’ve integrated them into the team. And then we had a one of the dog’s name, Cinderella. She had been tried in a home. We had adopted her out, and it just didn’t work. And so she came back to us and our staff reached out to the rescue. They were not able to take her at the time, but had lots of partners. This is where I just think, this is what we can do when we work together. So they reached out to their network of sled dog rescues and found a family up in Canada. This was our first and only since transport that we’ve done that’s actually been an international transport. Okay.
So we transported this dog to Montreal, and then she was are flown to British Columbia and acclimated into this family who did Sled Dog Rescue. All the dogs, and I think at the time that 18 dogs and they were all part of their sled dog team. And this is where I think the community forgets too. So we do that and we trust. And then there’s no crystal ball, so we never get to see what happens. And so we were really lucky that last year this family reached out to give us an update. And to let us know that not only did they still have Cinderella, that we named him after Disney princesses, but she was thriving, and she’s not thriving in any sense of the word of what we would think thriving is. But she’s thriving for her, and it’s a life that we never thought would exist for her, and she was so lucky to find people who just get her and meet her where she’s at while slowly nudging her out of her comfort zone a little bit. Yeah.
So this is a dog that now lives on 125 acres of property. Wow! With an area that’s fenced in. She has her own access to indoors if she wants to be inside with the humans and the other dogs, or into their heated doggy barn, where the sled dogs like to spend most of their time. She has no interest in being a competitive sled dog. It triggers a lot of her traumas being on the sled, but she absolutely loves her sled dog pack, and she absolutely loves running. So she trains with the dogs, and she’s very quirky and silly and has really come into her own personality that this family has just embraced and shared. And it was an opportunity for us. I think, to really look at how our definition of home needs to sort of be flexible because we never would have imagined that that home ever even existed and this was a dog that I could never imagine now, living in a place where she’s happy and thriving and doesn’t have the urge to bolt.
And she may—she’s never gonna be in on your bed snuggly, loving dog. Sure. But she’s found happiness, and she has found a family that meets her where she’s at and she’s content to love her family sort of like a little distance. The only time she lets any human contact is when she gets her harness on to practice with the dogs. So I just think that that’s amazing. And I’m just really grateful to not only the family who gave her that chance on top of all of their other rescues and the life that they have up in Canada, but that when we reached out to this other rescue, it wasn’t just a hard “no, sorry, we don’t have space.” It was a “we don’t have space. But let’s reach out.”
And if we could just ripple that and kind of mirror that over all the different experiences and stories and animals that comes through our doors, I think you know, we would be able to do so much more in the world that we serve of animal rescue. It’s a great story. So I definitely appreciate you, you know, kind of taking a few minutes and sharing that with us.
So before we start to wrap things up, I want to know what your future looks like. What are you guys working on? Do you have any events coming up? Tell us a little bit about that. Well, looking to the future the—our 150th anniversary, we have our annual big fundraising event called Paws on Parade. It’s in its 26th year last year in its 25th event anniversary we raised over $90,000 for our revenue, which is incredible and is unrestricted funds that go right into our mission. So every year we have a fun time with day of celebrating our relationship with pets on our Bangor Waterfront, walking dogs. It’s not a requirement to have a dog if you just love animals. The money supports cats as well. We do a two mile walk. We have pet contest. We have prizes, giveaways. We have a shelter dog runway where we get to feature some of our dogs out on a runway, which is super fun. Yeah.
So this year, our theme is bark to the future, which we think is super fun, and we think it’s a total appropriate time looking at our next 150 years in the community, but also kind of setting up that we are at the same time. So Paws on Parade funds our annual campaign. So that $1.2 million budget that rules over every year that we have to start over and is required to support our work. $200,000 plus alone just to care medically for the animals just to deliver veterinary care is what we spend every year. Okay. So the funds are vital.
The animal welfare world is changing so rapidly that when this facility was built back in 1997 it wasn’t built for re-homing and adoption and this, you know, making matches and this sort of community feel it was really meant to just warehouse animals. And what that’s led to is it makes for really difficult workflow efficiency for our staff. It makes it really hard to isolate and quarantine animals for disease. So we want to save more lives and give more animals a chance and not euthanize for upper respiratory or feline leukemia or any of these things. Well, we need space to be able to safely separate animals. We need it to feel more relaxing and stress free while the animals are here. So making them feel like they’re in a more comfortable home environment, making it more customer friendly to our adoptive community and then also kind of taking it to the next level so that we can meet the needs that are the reality coming through our doors. So creating an actual veterinary, suite and recovery unit for animals coming out of surgery.
One of the most exciting elements of our capital campaign is that because our live release rate is so high, we have decommissioned our incinerator, which means it’s becoming more expensive for us to maintain our incinerator so that we can cremate on site that we are actually getting rid of it and removing all of those elements and redesigning that room into our second chance transport room. Wow. So now the room that was the saddest, most difficult room it was the end of life room is now going to be the second chance room to welcome all of our friends from the South that are being saved from euthanasia. Sure. So the two kind of you know are happening simultaneously.
Paws on Parade directly funds our annual mission. We start construction this fall, and we’re still gonna be operating for business. You know, we have $100,000 goal, and that money is vital for us to deliver care and services to the animals that will be coming through our doors this year during construction. And then our capital campaign, we’re about $300,000 away from our $1.75 million goal. Wow. And that is going to change the lives of the animals here in our shelter while they’re here. But also, I think of our community and the experience they have when they visit us in our animals. Yeah, that’s a pretty exciting future for you guys. How cool. Yes, yes we’re very excited. Yeah. Yeah. We’ve been talking about this for over a decade, so the fact that you know, it’s going to start happening soon. Yeah. This time next year, our whole our whole facility should be renovated, so that will be really exciting. Yeah, that is really exciting.
Well, Stacy, I’ve definitely appreciated my time with you. I’ve learned so much, actually, about your organization and your community. Is there anything that we may be missed that you want to share before we wrap this up? I’m sure there’s lots that we didn’t get to. There is so much. Every day is different here, but we love our support. Our supporters are all around the country, all around parts of the globe that we probably will never see. So we encourage people, please visit our website bangorhumane.org, find and follow us on Facebook. The more people that we have sharing in that conversation and helping share our work and supporting our work is the only way that we’re going to stick around for the next 150 years. It’s our community is who got us where we are, and it’s really cool to be in a place where that community and that definition of community is expanding, along with the lives that we are able to save and the families that were able to create through our work.
We’ll definitely be posting your website and your social media link to the podcast as well, so that people can find you guys easily. I’m really excited about your progress and I’ll definitely be following you guys to see what that looks like and where your capital campaign ends up at. So I’ve appreciated you taking the time to connect with me today and teach me a little more. Thank you. Thanks for the invitation and the conversation. It was a lot of fun.
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