Animal Shelter of the Week: Episode 36 – Caring Hands Humane Society

Caring Hands Humane Society is a non-profit, private organization dedicated to helping companion animals and the people who love them. They are dedicated to finding good, loving homes for the animals they take in while providing the best animal care to get them back on their feet. The mission at Caring Hands is simple, to relieve animal suffering and to prevent cruelty to animals.


Website: http://www.caringhandshs.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CaringHandsHumaneSociety/

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.

Caring Hands Humane Society is a private organization dedicated to helping companion animals. A big accomplishment for this shelter is they became a “no-kill community” back in 2016 and have continued on that path every year since then. The staff and volunteers at Caring Hands strive to provide the best possible care to the animals entrusted to them while also providing education in basic humane animal care for the people of their community.

Hi Lauren and Cynthia, welcome to the show. Hi. Cynthia, you’re the Marketing Coordinator, and Lauren, you are the Volunteer Coordinator at Caring Hands Humane Society in Kansas. And why don’t you get us started and just tell us a little bit about your organization and when you guys got started? The organization’s been running since 1985 and really it just kind of started out as a place for the homeless animals in the communities. And I don’t really know that they had a lot of future plans or what that meant exactly. But at the time, from the way I understand it was, there just wasn’t anything open for these kinds of situations. And we have a couple of people who started this were just helping animals out of their homes then. So that’s kind of how Caring Hands started.

So you’re in Kansas? Can you kind of explain what your community is like and what the area around you, is like? So Harvey County is pretty, I don’t wanna say rural, but we don’t have big towns. Pretty small towns were located in the largest town in our county, which is about 18,000-20,000 people. And around us, is this smaller than that. And we can take in anywhere in our county. We take in a lot of dogs, kind of pit mixes is our thing right now that we have a lot of. Well we take in a lot of everything, any animals, but pets, basically is what we can take from the community, just not wildlife. So does that include farm animals as well? Yeah, we’ve had some pigs. Right now, we have two ferrets. But we take them all. Okay. Just not like the baby squirrels and stuff. Okay.

So what are some of the programs that your organization offers? I was looking at your website, and it looks like you have quite a few services. We have an opportunity for people to come in and volunteer in our facility during our operating hours. And then we also have adventure tales, which is where they can come and a volunteer could take a dog from our facility and go out into the community to some of our places and walk them around, maybe go and sit out on the patio at a restaurant and eat some lunch. Just get them socialized in the community with other people and just anything that doesn’t involve going up to other dogs.

And then we’re about to start October 12. We’ll start our first Miles For Mutts, which is a running and walking group, where we’ll go out and meet a centennial park and they’ll have kind of the lay of the land, and they’ll just get to run with the dogs and just a type of fun for a little dog pack out there. So that’s another one that we’re really interested in seeing how the community likes that. I also coordinate our Trap Neuter Release (TNR) program. We’ve already pretty much wrapped up in our town here, so we’ve been trying to branch out to just our county residences outside of the city limits and help them with overpopulation there? We’ve just recently moved into another local town where a lot of the staff members are from, and that’s a very small town, only about maybe 2,000 people. But they’ve always had this huge overpopulation problem with that. So we just started that with an insurance loan. So volunteers help with that as well.

Going back to the Miles for Mutts program. Is anybody able to join that if they want to? How did they get involve? If they want to be part of that program? Yeah, they just show up. They can come. All they have to do is sign a waiver that has some instructions on it as well. Just chat with me before they go, and then they can go off and basically I’m just asking them to stay in the vicinity of the park. That way, if something does happen, I could go to them really quick and help them out. But it’s open to anybody and we’ve advertised it on Facebook. They can sign up for it or they just show up. And all the dogs are adoptable dogs? Yeah, everybody that will be there will be available for adoption, yeah.

And then going back to the Trap Neuter Release (TNR) Program. How long has that been in place? I know you said it’s kind of a new thing. So when did that start? Let’s say, beginning of 2018. And we just go out once a month and go to select locations where people have signed up to be caregivers. They signed an agreement with us as well, and that kind of makes them allowed to have these larger amounts of animals on their property. Basically, they’re just feral cats and not pets or anything like that. So we don’t have to continually have them brought in by animal control at that point and try to find new barn homes for them and things like that. So it’s really helped us, and it also helps the community. And just about three years that we’re open may be the same for this next project in other towns.

So it looks like you guys also have something called Dog Wash and Bathing Facilities under your services. What is that? The first are of everyone in the community can bring their dogs into our facility and for a fee, our staff and volunteers will bathe them and dry them, and brush them out and all that stuff. And then our bathing facilities go along with our membership. And so with a membership to Caring Hands, you get some discounts to places in the community, and then you get access to our like our tub and our brushes and all that stuff.

And then I also see that you guys have a program called Forever Loved Memorials. Can you describe what that is? Because I think that it’s kind of unique to your shelter. Yeah, we were seeing a big need in our community for the cremation services and just helping the public deal with grief and everything like that when it comes to losing their loved ones. So we had some machines put in over here on our property. And basically the way that works is we not only do we offer like cremation services itself. But when you have a pet that is really at the end of its life and potentially suffering, it’s that time where we need to say goodbye. We also have a veterinarian here that will perform euthanasia and probably more cost efficient for people than going to their local vets here. You know, if they’re really struggling with that. There’s always gonna be big surprises. You just never know sometimes when you’re gonna be faced with that decision. So we try to make that a better option for people.

As far as cremation service goes, we offer both communal and private cremations, which means that they can choose whether or not they would like to receive their ashes back of their pet. We have four choices of urns that they can choose from and whether or not they would want them sealed. We do know that some people want to go ahead and spread their ashes, so we give them that option as well. That’s a service that not many people know is provided in certain shelters or rescues. Even you know, a lot of people just think you’re going to vet if you need that service to be performed. So I think that that’s great, that you guys offer something more affordable and respectful that someone can do for their pet.

So it looks like it will also have a service called Pet Reunion and Guardians. And is that a lost and found kind of service? Or what is that program? Basically, what the website is referring to is lost and found services just because we are the only organization in our county that you can take a stray animal to. Aside from, maybe, the local veterinarian will sometimes assist with that as well. But as far as holding them for a longer period of time, that’s gonna be our organization. So, you know, we try to put it out there, and that if you’re missing, you definitely want to check with us first. And then we can also take a report from pet owners. And that kind of helps, you know, if people are calling in and say, “hey I saw this dog,” and well, we’ve got a report book for that. We can look back onto that, hopefully, connect people before they even have to bring their pet into the facility.

So are there any particular challenges for the animals of the community? I know you said you’d take in a lot of Pit mixes. Are those really common animals that you take in? Just any challenges. Definitely with Pit mixes., I mean, I think that’s a big problem in a lot of shelters. We just have maybe a lack of housing for them in our area. There’s a lot of landlord restrictions, and some of the towns surrounding us have banned breeds. I know there’s been a lot of discussion about that in those towns in the last year. People are still kind of on the fence about it. So possibly in the future, we’re gonna be looking to, maybe put our say in that as well. We did start getting some information from mypitbullisfamily.org, and they sent us a big package that we have been distributing that as well.

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So what are the biggest challenges that you would say are in your organization today? What are you doing to resolve the challenges? Or how can listeners for people in your community help you with those challenges? We’ve been really lucky that over the last two decades we haven’t had any kind of outbreak like this just because Newton is kind of a tight-knit community, but it just so happens that many people stop realizing how important vaccinations are. Then we have this issue come up, and now we’re having to revisit that and re-educate people on the issue. But the biggest problem is that our shelter is not really set up to treat that kind of illness. We have a lot of chain link going on within our kennels, and there’s a shared drain system, so there’s really not any good way to keep that from spreading once it’s in the shelter. If it makes it’s way into our healthy kennel area. Right now, we’re just trying to come up with a game plan to try and get some new kennels set up in our facility that will minimize all of that spread of contagious illnesses and disease.

So when you don’t have an outbreak of you know Parvo or any illness like that, what do you do to clean your shelter? Because I know a lot of those illnesses can stay in the environment for a long time. So do you just clean with bleach? What is kind of your protocol for responding to an illness like that? Well, normally we have been just using kennel care and bleaching certain things throughout every day of the week. There would be a separate room like we would need to go take every item out of there and bleach it. That’s just some, like, routine, preventable things that we do on our kennel technicians do. And in this case, it kind of forced us to re-evaluate what we were using and if there was some better options out there. So we did discover a cleaning solution called rescue. We had actually, multiple people give us some advice and said that they would recommend we get that product and start using it. And so it’s supposed to be able to kill Parvo and under a minute so we did order that right away and started using it everywhere. We treated our yard with it more than once and just kind of try to keep up on that and really tighten down on our cleaning methods. Great.

And I know you talked about the importance of vaccinations, and it’s so important that people get their animals vaccinated and know why. So can you kind of explain to people who may not know what the importance of vaccinations are? Really what we were seeing here was it only affected one puppy that we had in our care, the other three dogs that it affected were adult dogs. And so a lot of the time when we get dogs in here, we don’t know their vaccination history and even those that don’t have it, we vaccinate them right away unless we’ve been told otherwise—proven otherwise that they have it and so even if it’s two vaccinations under their belt, we still have them turning a positive. So it’s really important that people get on the ball right away. If they bring a new puppy home, they need to make sure they get them a series of boosters, and then go in every year and get that vaccination because there’s—anywhere that you go, it could be in soil, they can pick it up from just about anything. So it’s really important. And it’s very deadly as we all know now, I just wanna make sure that people understand that.

So we’ll turn things over to a more happy subject. Do you guys have any memorable stories that you’d like to share? It could be about an animal or a staff member, a volunteer just something that kind of reminds you of why you do what you do. And I’ll let you both share one story. I think the biggest thing for me, we had a hoarding case going on in a local town nearby. And they had brought one of the dogs to us at the time, we were really cool, and we were kind of trying to work with them and say “hey, we just need you to bring him in slowly. That way we can try to place them.” When I met this first dog, he was I would say feral, they really didn’t have any access that afterward or anything, no other social contact aside from the dogs in the home and the two people in the home. And this became a challenge for the  rest of the staff here. I really just bonded with him and he kind of became my shadow. I got his picture hanging up over my desk, and it kind of just reminds me how important it is that we’re here running and having a voice for dogs like him. He was able to—after staying with us for six months of really working on some of its behaviors, so we were able to send him to a pretty reputable rescue up north. And, I think it only took maybe about a month before he got adopted. So it was probably the biggest moment that speaks about my mine.

Mine is less a story it’s more than I’ve kind of found a local fostering. It’s like my house is empty now, if I don’t have four dogs with me. So really special like I had one who was a nine-year-old terrier really scruffy old thing. Some people call them ugly. I thought it was the cutest thing alive, but it was just so special to see him get his forever home and meet them. And I have my husband bring them to the shelter and meet them for their dog meet and greet. And it just really felt like we were adopting out of a part of our life, just some people that we really knew we could trust. And it’s been great. Right now we have a little Chihuahua who only loves me and hates my husband. We like, bond and they’re growing every day. We just see him grow and we’re just ready. We can’t wait to put him in his right forever home, and I think that’s the great thing about fostering is that you get to know so much more about the dog that you ever could in the shelter environment and just really make sure that they go to the right place. So that’s what I’ve been finding right now. It’s my joy in this job. That’s great.

Yeah, I think both of those stories really show how important it is to find those animals or whether it’s fostering itself. Just those little things that kind of remind you why you do what you do. Because we know in this industry it could be very difficult. You see a lot of hardship and a lot of things that you wish you could prevent and you can’t always. So finding those little animals or stories just kind of help you remember why you do what you do Yeah. Yeah.

So what does the future look like for your organization? Do you have any upcoming programs or events? I know you mentioned a couple of new programs that you have. I think that’s pretty much for the programs itself. That’s pretty much everything we’ve got going on for now. The other thing we’re just focusing on is getting ourselves out there and we’re coming up with this many good ideas for events that we can. I think it’s whereas the programs go. We’re pretty well set on everything that we make time for. And try to just see what these new things are going to come out to be and how well they’re working. The same thing with our events, we just build up our calendar this year to see what all was gonna work best. And I guess this next year coming up we’re just gonna have to reevaluate. And we’re still coming up with new ideas. We have a gala coming up in January, so that’s a new one for us. It’s called Wine Fur Paws. We also will be having an concert coming up in the summertime. That’s gonna help us tip off our capital campaign. So we’re really hoping to make some big changes to our building and just keep on improving.

How important is fundraising to your organization? It’s a huge part of it. We’re not funded by the government or anything else. We’re a nonprofit organization and so everything that we do, anything that we need an update. We’ve got to rely on the support of the community. You know, occasionally we’ll get somebody to help us privately fund some things. But generally, it’s gonna be all about the community support that helps us get going every day, let alone come up with new things that we need.

Also on your website, I saw that you guys host birthday parties and office parties and it looks like you also do school and group lectures. Can you kind of talk about those? Yeah, we haven’t had very many inquiries lately on our birthday and office parties. But we have been kind of trying to go out more in the community. Educate our children, and that way, hopefully their children will take that home for their parents and talk to them all about the importance of spaying and neutering and adopting instead of shopping. And just what we offer for the community because, you know, going out there showing the community what we’re about and that we’re about good things. Educating being better for the community is the best way to bring in those potential donors. Schools reach out to us to come in and kind of talk about our organization as well and educate them more on those hot topics about animals.

We also have a group and their strategy is they will sit down in front of the dogs and read them a book. Not only has it helped socializes the dogs and give them some enrichment, it’s also been helpful for some of the kids that maybe have never experienced something like this. We’ve had even some fearful kids, you know, they’re not used to dogs and things like that. That’s really gonna help them come out of their shell, and animals, too. Yeah, I think, just like you said to have the kids go home and kind of explain to the parents how important these programs are because I don’t think a lot of people realize how much they absorb that information. And then they just go home and explain it to their parents, and their parents might have never heard of something like that before. Like if you talk about trap, neuter release, you know, a program like that.

Yeah, that’s definitely a big one. I just went this summer to a middle school kind of summer program, reading literacy thing and talk to them about spaying and neutering about how they could contact us for their community pets. Then I explained, a community pet comes to them and one of them said, I need to tell my parents this because we have a bunch of cats that live in our valley and there are always coming around. And then there are more cats. Great to see that. That was actually applied. They actually understood what I meant. Right, that’s very helpful. Yeah.

So how could people get in touch with your organization if they want to volunteer or adopt? Is it best to go on your website or a call? How do people reach out? Probably quickest way to get a hold of somebody is just to call us. And that phone number should be on the website as well. We don’t mind e-mails either, but I don’t believe we currently have our personal individual e-mails listed on there right now, which we will be getting changed. So I would definitely recommend just giving us a call. Okay. We’re pretty small. So everybody knows, Like, Okay, this is a Lauren question or this is just something we can transfer over. Okay, awesome.

But is there anything else that you would like to share before we wrap things up? I don’t think so. I think we pretty much covered everything. And do you know that phone number off hand by chance? We could just say it for people. Yeah. (316) 283-0839. Okay, correct me if I’m wrong, but your website is caringhandshs.org. It will be caringhandshs.org. All right, also. Well, thank you guys so much for being on the podcast today. I learned so much about your organization and it was a pleasure talking with you. Thanks for having us.

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