Animal Shelter of the Week: Episode 56 – Laramie Peak Humane Society

Laramie Peak Humane Society is the best keep secret in Wyoming. The shelter takes in impounds, strays and surrenders and their goal is to treat them as their own until they find them homes! They have a county wide TNR program and offer county residents spay and neuter vouchers. Rescued is their favorite breed!

The LPHS is committed to the health and welfare of all animals, and the active pursuit of a loving forever home for every set of paws that enters their care. Hundreds of displaced animals come through their doors each year and it takes a lot of time, rehabilitation and veterinary care to place them into new homes.

With such great support from the community of Converse County and surrounding areas, their dedicated staff and terrific volunteer base, they are able to provide a safe temporary home for displaced animals in their community.

Laramie Peak Humane Society is more than a traditional animal shelter. In addition to sheltering displaced pets, they offer a number of programs and services to educate, inform, and inspire people to take responsible care of their pets and to treat them with the kindness they deserve. Together, they are creating a better community for all.

“Welcome to the AARP,  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 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 Laramie Peak Humane Society is committed to the health and welfare of all animals. And the active pursuit of a loving forever homes for every set of paws that enters their care. The shelter takes in impound, strays, and surrenders, and their goal is to treat them as their own until they find them homes. They have a countywide TNR program and offer county residents spay-neuter vouchers. Rescued is their favorite breed.

 Hi there, Cathy. Welcome to the show today. Hi. I’m glad to be here. We are so happy to have you. And, you know, we just really want to jump right in. So you’re the executive director at the Laramie Peak Humane Society in Wyoming. Is that correct? No. Douglas, Wyoming. That is correct. Perfect. And you guys like to be known as the LPHS. All right. So could you kind of just share with us a little bit about your organization and what it is that you do over there. We are a no kill or low kill shelter. We take intake, strays, surrenders within our county. And we have a behavior program or we can rehab them and send them out into homes for successful adoptions. And our cats. We have a community cat room, they can socialize. And I have volunteers that come in and socialize with those guys. And we also have a barn cat program for cats that don’t want to live in the house. So we try to fit the perfect home for every pet. Absolutely. And what cat really wants to be indoors, right. They always have that inner feeling that wants to go outside from time to time, right? So, actually, we have Chip at the shelter and I tried to adopt him out three times and he kept showing back up. Well, we just let him live there. He’s your barn cat. He has his own little house outside. And, yeah, how funny that is. Isn’t it funny how they know to do that? And he would just wait at the door for us.  Oh, my goodness. I love cats. They’re such smart little… they are. What’s kind of your guys’ mission over there at the LPHS? I wanted to make sure I got that right. Yeah, Our mission is to just humanely care and protect strays, surrenders. And we have a big emphasis on return to owners. From if they get picked up or found on the highway. We have the main interstate that runs through our town, and we get dogs and we try our hardest to get them returned to their owners. Yeah, that’s an important thing to do, because how many animals actually get out or get loose, or… I’m kind of just curious.

 You said you got that main highway right there. So what’s it like over there for people who aren’t in your state? So our state is very large and it’s a rural area. We have a lot of farming. We have a lot of energy. We have a lot of wind energy, arms. Over here, we have some coal and a lot of oil. So combination. It’s pretty much, we have a little town of about 6000 here. We have groceries, but like we don’t have a WalMart. So, like anywhere, and we partner with Casper, PetSmart, and everything is like an hour away. So I always have to think about how long the animals are gonna ride. If we go somewhere. Our state is so small, we partner with a lot of other shelters and rescue statewide and some out of state rescues. That’s awesome to be able to partner with other organizations. My motto is, we’re better together. Absolutely. We love that. That’s absolutely it because you’re doing everything you have. But it’s always great to partner up and do things together and work towards the same cause. So that’s awesome to hear that you guys are able to do that in your area. Yeah, that’s one of the things that makes us highly successful. So what would you say, is the community like for animals in your area? Do you have a lot of dumping? Is there a lot of you know, animals getting loose, kind of paint us a picture about that? We have a lot of working animals here. We have dogs that guard sheep or cattle dogs. We also have the law enforcement academy here in town. And so a lot of our police in our state have canine units. It’s not uncommon here and hasn’t been. So, it’s a very working mentality of the animals. Right now, we’re kind of in a boom. And so people come here and then realize they are gonna be working 14 to 16 hours a day on a rig and can’t take care of their dogs. And so they surrender them. Or we have a lot of our dogs come from like divorces or moving. So you get a lot of owner surrenders in general. We do. I don’t have the number right in front of me. No, that’s okay. This lets us know what the challenges for the animals are in your area because that differs so much from area to area. So that’s very interesting. Well, in, like, three years ago, just right around October, November, we got seven or eight cats in from individuals that either had passed away or gone to a nursing home. And so we had all these older cats, but perfect health. One owner. So that was a challenge for us. Definitely. So we got them all homed. Oh, good. Gotta love that right?.

 So does your organization just take in dogs and cats or do you guys kind of take in a variety of animals? So, in an emergency, I have three kennels kind of outback. But we have had, like, a chicken, a ferret. People have found a potbelly pig. Wow. And usually, we keep him 24- 48 hours until the HHHH group. If I have any of those little animals, they’ll keep them, because we don’t really have, we have a shelter that used to be a kill shelter. So our layout is dog, cats, cats, dogs. So it’s super hard to have something else. We don’t have the right set up. Yeah, you guys are pretty much set up for dogs and cats Yes. Okay, so how many dogs and cats would you say is a normal amount for you guys? So we have about between 45-50 on a daily basis. Is that both dogs and cats? Okay. That’s a pretty good amount of animals to care for. Yeah, it is. And I’m assuming, do you do any type of fostering or anything of that nature? So we do. We have fosters in town. We have a couple that will foster dogs for us regularly and a couple that do kittens for us, when we have mama’s and kittens come in in the spring. But we’re also going to start partnering with the women’s prison in a town over from us, in Lust, to take the dogs over there and foster and train them four at a time. Oh, wow! So that, yeah. Okay, so that’s kind of a new program that you’re gonna have going now. How awesome. So you said that you’re gonna have four animals or four dogs, I should say. Four dogs there at a time. And then how long do they stay with the inmates over there? Our goal is because I’m really big on not returning to the shelter because it’s so traumatic for animals, is that they’ll stay about three months and then all, that all the applications and do the home checks, and hopefully they can pick them up from Lust. They won’t have to come back and get them. So… And the inmates are going to stay with them 24 hours a day. They have three handlers, so I’m super excited for dogs that have anxiety. This is gonna be a perfect program for them. That’s good. So then you’ll kind of take four of the animals that you have that you feel would best fit that description, in a sense, to go and stay with them. That’s pretty cool. Our family has been affected by Alzheimer’s, and my husband lost his dad a few months ago, and we go there to the assisted living Alzheimer’s unit once a month and we stay a whole afternoon and we take dogs and cats. And I have one of my board members, goes with me and then I have a gal from middle school that helps me out. That volunteers and the residents are so happy. That’s probably my favorite program. Awe, they get to have that enrichment. Now it’s the animals in the house, the people living there. So that’s a good one to do, too. And it’s, it’s definitely important. I feel like the animals need to get out, and then the people in the assisted living, they also get that enrichment. So that’s a good one. And we have a huge volunteer program, so I think we have a really high adoption rate. And, I’ve kind of looked at the stats and our cats and dogs get socialized every day and the dogs get walked at least once a day, sometimes twice a day. Okay. So, I have that built into our program.

 So would you say that you guys have any type of unique enrichments that you guys do with the animals? Any enrichment is awesome for these guys, but do you have any that you would say are unique for your guys’ work? Probably. We do behavior assessments on the dogs, the intake assessments on the cats. Probably about 48 hours after they come in, after they’ve been able to kind of settle in. And then we kind of see what they need. We do catwork conditioning, the end of every shift, for the dogs. And we use, Play for Life and Open Paw Program. They so love the interaction, a lot of just good behaviors. When they’re going through those and you guys are assessing them, what do they do over there? What we do is we have a small building, but a huge grounds, and so we separate the dogs, on where their needs are. Like, if a dog is jumping on people, then we will put him in the back kennel. And people know that when you go in there, even the volunteers know that if he jumps on you, he’ll get a time out. So, we have, all different, like nipping, barking. I don’t let the dogs just bark and bark for no reason, because that’s hard on the other dogs and the people. So. You’re trying to do a little bit of, like the training and stuff over there? Yep, and I believe in a lot of holistic things. So, like we use lavender oil for calming. I play music for the dogs when we’re not there. So I really try to approach it from a lot of different angles. My mom’s even one of those, she, when they leave, they turn the radio on for their dog, and it just helps him. You know, they like the same things we do. People have said they can walk into our shelter and really tell the animals are cared for and I love hearing that. Yes, I mean, that’s huge because that lets you know that you’re doing an awesome job and clearly the animals, they’re taking care of and they’re happy. You know. Shelter living is hard on any pets. One of our PD officers, say, Cathy, you’ve turned this into a doggy daycare. You make that sound like a bad thing. They’re on vacation when they’re here. How funny. But that’s awesome. That’s kind of the mentality that you want to have, you know. You care about them and you know, you understand you take the time, understand their needs and their wants, so that’s really good.

 So what would you say is your biggest challenge? And I mean just overall the challenge that the LPHS faces every day? So, I definitely think our biggest challenge, and in our board is working on this, is our building, like I said, is from the 1970’s, and it is just falling apart. And so we don’t have, like, a designated room for shots. There’s like a tiny little lobby out there. So if somebody’s picking up or surrender and trying to adopt at the same time, that’s all happening in the same space. Oh yeah, that can get kind of hectic. Yeah, that is hard. That is our hardest thing. Like I said, we have beautiful runs outside, lots of space for playgroups, and the cats can go in and out 24/ 7. We have opened up to where they have a caddy allow outside. So that part is good, but the building leaves a lot to be desired. Oh, yeah, and that’s kind of the hardship, right? You’ve got the great outside in the great features and all of that. But the building, I mean, that’s a tough one. It’s like you can get kind of loud and noisy and a lot going on in one space. And that’s hard. Definitely. We actually just got a new heater. Last year, one of our aero electrics in town helped us get it put in, because we didn’t have constant heat and all the rooms. Oh, no. We would have to shuffle the dogs around. Oh my goodness. And it gets cold over there in Wyoming, doesn’t it? Yeah. Yeah, that’s tough, but that’s good to hear.

So I know that you mentioned that you guys don’t have a room that you guys are able to do the shots and stuff in. So does that mean that you guys partner with a local vet or do you offer those services within your building somehow, or, how does that work? So, we could not run our shelter without our vets here in town. They’re so wonderful to us. They give us discounts on spay and neuters. And they really treat shelter animals just like everybody else’s animals. But we have, like a stainless steel area that we can get, like the booster shots or medicine. But it’s just one little stainless steel table, and it’s kind of in the middle of the hallway, actually. Are your vets… Are they pretty close to you? I know that you mentioned that you guys kind of have to drive an hour to get to places. How far away is your local vet? Luckily, our local vets are only like 10 minutes. We have three really, really good vets that people come long distances to go to, like from Casper to here. So it’s huge for us to have those vets and they’re very vested into the shelter. They’re amazing. It’s great that you guys have that and you’re able to, you know, go there and do that when you need to. Honestly, our shelter would not be as successful as it has, without our vets in town. Yeah, definitely. And, um, can you imagine having to drive an hour, over an hour just to go in to check in on an animal or anything of that nature. That’s tough. So do you guys do any type of transporting at all? We do. We kind of all help each other in the state. We’re on I 25 and Casper is like in the middle of the state, and we’re just an hour away from that. So we have a lot of transports that will stop at our shelter to switch animals. Because they’re going through to Iowa or Rollins or Washington. So we do offer that too. A couple years ago, we had a wreck out on I 25 of a dog transport and it had 42 dogs. And we lost one or two. We got them all out to Washington, so they all got rescued and got to their homes. That was awesome, exhausting, but awesome. I was gonna say, that is a ton of animals to be on a transport and then, you know, just to hear that there was an accident regarding that many animals. I mean, that’s hard. And, with any accident that’s terrible. But, that our city let us use their auxiliary building, and they moved everything out so we could put kennels out there. The Fire Department helped. The Sheriff, the citizens. We have the best community. I was going to say. It definitely sounds like you have a very supporting community. Like you’ve got a lot of people behind you, which is awesome. I couldn’t imagine running the shelter without it. Yeah.

 So do you guys do any type of events or fundraising type things? Like, what does that look like? Yeah, we do. We have Possum Pearls. We just did our 20th anniversary of it. And we did the roaring twenties, and it was so fun. I think I saw your flyer on your website. Yeah, it was super fun. And we, we all dressed up in, like, twenties outfits, and we had live music. And then we have a live auction, raffles. There’s a gentleman in his life in town, the Fletchers and they donate a pallet of dog food or cat food. This year, it was dog food. And people bid on it, and then they donate it back to the shelter. Oh, my gosh, that’s awesome! Yeah. And who doesn’t want to go to a roaring twenties party, right? That was awesome! The board did roaring twenties food and decorations and they, even, like, did bids for dessert. It was so fun. And then in the summer, we have Jackalope Days and we do our Dachshund Dash. So we have little dogs and we have, like, kind of a long alley behind our square in town. And we have actual races, and I give ribbons and a costume contest. It’s been for fun. Yeah. You guys just have all kinds of fun over there. That’s so cool. what’s life without fun?  Well, I mean, you guys really seem to put some thought into, you know, your events and making a final. You know, everybody loves auctions and prizes. And so you enforce that for the dogs and cats, too, And that’s kind of cool. Yeah.

 So you’ve been with this organization for about six years now. Can you kind of share with me a little bit about how you got started with the organization? And just overall, is this something that you knew? Animal welfare’s what I want to do with my life at first, or did it kind of change a little bit over time? So I was raised by a game reserve. So animal welfare has always been a part of who I am, if that makes sense. I actually am a case manager for a hospital, and I’ve ran a battered women’s shelter, and I honestly just kind of wore myself out emotionally. And I just needed a break. So I was helping my son and I took about nine months and we had a dog and it got out and it actually went to one of the board members’ houses. And she said, have you ever thought about this? And I thought, well, I thought about it. But that’s about as far as that went, right. I talked with the Board, then decided I would give it a try and I love it. I couldn’t have picked something better for me. That is so awesome. And you know, one of the things that I absolutely love about these podcasts and getting to know the people that I’m talking to because you know, I can’t talk to everybody at the organization as much as I’d love to. But this is why I like to kind of get to know you, is because you clearly have a knack for helping people, whether they be people or animals, which is just amazing. And I find it funny that you needed a break from what you were doing. But then you jumped right back in the helping again, and you just kind of switched your field a little bit. But that’s so great to hear. And kudos to you for being able to do what you do, to be there and support the women in your past job. And now you’re supporting animals. Like you have that great personality and just you know you want to help and that is shining through right now just from talking to you and that’s awesome. I couldn’t do what I do without my family. And it definitely seems that you’ve got a good support system and good foundation within your family. And the fact, I know you mentioned earlier, that your husband kind of helps out within the shelter and helps out with just little things around, which is great. You guys could work together. Who doesn’t love that? He’s pretty amazing. And that my daughter actually helps and both of my boys and my grandkids. I joke that there’s nobody in our family that hasn’t picked up poop out there. I love your personality. I love your enthusiasm.

 I’m curious. Do you have any type of memorable stories that you can share that just really touches your heart? So I hadn’t been there very long and there was a dogfighting ring here. I’m not sure where it was because it was all secretive. The sheriffs brought a dog in, that was a bait dog. And it was a Weimaraner. And it was Jade and I just fell in love with her. And it took me, pretty much every day for 18 months to get her rehab to trust people. And I got her adopted out to an older couple and she came and visited me a couple weeks ago, and she’s just a butterball now. And so funny,she’ll see me and she’ll get the biggest, like I don’t know, has the biggest smile on our face. I mean her. I would always tell her, and my husband, he went out and he was like, are you sure this is safe for you? And I was like, it’ll be okay, but that’s probably my best. I just…and she was on her Possum Pearls poster a couple years ago. So not by me asking, the artist did it. Yes, we did go home with that painting. Funny. But you know what? That’s one of the things like you can clearly tell she remembers you and she knows what you did for her. And that is just truly amazing. And it makes this industry so worthwhile to be able to work and make that impact. You know that those horrible things are out there. I, personally, dogfighting is a big one. I hate thinking about that because…. it’s just. I just can’t even get my head wrapped around it, I just don’t understand it. It’s definitely a whole new world on that, I guess. But just the fact that you were able to just flip her life around.

 So, Cathy, what does the future look like for the LPHS? I would definitely like to see a more functioning, usable building.That would be,  just to expand what we’re doing now already, and I’d like to be able to take care of, like this region of Wyoming, honestly. Instead of just the county, because some of the tiny little cities don’t have anything. That’s an awesome thing to kind of shoot for because to your point, everything is kind of rural and there’s definitely distances between it. And like when we’re talking about the vet services. Some cities don’t have that easy accessibility to the vet. And so that makes it harder on the area for the animals, because they’re not being spayed. They’re not being neutered, they’re not having their shots, they’re getting sick. So, and everything that goes out of our shelter is microchipped and or spayed and neutered. We put that in our budget. OK, so is that kind of one of the challenges that you guys face in your area? Do people not spay and neuter their animals? They do not. Yeah, especially cats. We have a trap neuter release or spay and we send them back out into the community into their colonies. But we send healthy animals back. They’ll get their spay a rabies shot and they get checked for feline leukemia. And if they’re sick, they don’t go back, because that can spread to the whole colony. So how do you explain to people what it’s like to work in an animal shelter? It’s emotional, but it’s the best job. I think I feel like I’m in a place to help who nobody else wants to help. The strays, and they didn’t ask to be born. They didn’t ask to be dumped on the interstate. But it is emotional, because when you do foster them, I mean, little piece of your heart goes every time you adopt one. So yeah, that’s what time I heard it. Yeah, that’s probably why I work so hard to be picky about where they go. But, you know, sometimes I always hear this, and it’s like, well, why do organizations make it so hard to adopt an animal? It’s like, well, sometimes they have to, you know, depending on the area. If you’re in an area where people adopt out animals for dogfighting, for instance. Like you would mention, I would want to be very careful of who they’re going to. And I’ve said no to people before, cause like we’ve had people walk into our shelter and say, I’d like to see your pits and I’m like, why are you interested in one and they’d be like, do you have anything that’s not spayed or neutered, that’s a pet. And I’ll be like, why are you interested in that? And I think what I told one of the ladies on my board, I and my husband were foster parents, and so I kind of went into this job knowing that I couldn’t take every animal home. But it is my job to give them the best life they can have right now. And that’s really what it’s all about. You know, you’re never gonna know their past, but you can definitely help them right now and help to brighten their future up a little bit. 

So how can people go about getting in touch with your organization? Saying, if they wanted to volunteer or become a foster, how can they go about reaching you guys? They can message us on Facebook. That’s how a lot of people get ahold of us. We have a website, and our phone number is 3073586475. Perfect. And I want to point out to our listeners a little bit and kind of just let you know I did take a look at the website, and I’m going to kind of just point out my favorite thing about your guys’ website that you guys show and offer, was the successful adoptions. You have a, well, you know I love it. I love the way you set up. I love how easy it is on the eyes reading them. It’s awesome. I highly suggest that, you know, everybody go and check it out. You need a little bit of cheerful, happy news. Puppies and rainbow feel. Definitely go check it out, because that’s exactly what I got. Good! I love a happy ending. Yes, and it truly is, and it’s inspiring. And I feel like those stories are the ones that really tug on the heartstrings and get people to want to get more involved. And so I think that’s awesome that you guys offer that on your Web site and that you guys did such a good job of displaying them. Like they’re very easy. You know, I love them. And that’s all of our board, and our staff do all of that. I can’t even take credit for that. Like I said, this is what I’m thinking in my head. It definitely, it takes some keen eyes, some visualization, but it truly is. It’s awesome. And I wanted to make sure that I pointed that out there because it wasn’t firing, Of course.

 So is there anything else that you’d like to share before we wrap things up today? I don’t think so. Thank you so much for the invitation. I love the podcast, and I’ve gotten a lot of good ideas from it, or if I’m feeling like I’m not doing good or whatever, It’s kind of nice to hear that, like other people are in the same boat. Because we are so rural. I’m out here steering this boat by myself. But that’s what our intentions are with this podcast is, you know, we want to shine a light to the great work that organizations in general. It’s a ton of work. I mean, not just labor wise. It’s yeah, emotional. Emotions and, you know, dedication. And I mean you might have days that are just completely and utterly just like you feel like giving up. But you still wake up the next morning and you do it again, and the fact that you can get something and get that extra, you know, we can do this from listening to this and hearing other organizations struggling. That’s what this is all about. And help each other out. We’re all in this for the same purpose. Hopefully. We’re better together. We just need to, like print that out and put it on everything. Well, Kathy, thank you so much for joining me today. I truly loved talking to you, and I loved your enthusiasm. And you’re a very happy, cheery person, and that just makes me happy. It just shines off on me, and I love that. Well good, I’m glad. Thank you again. 

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