Importance of a Community Animal Shelter

This is the full text of the Guest Column published on Wednesday in the Marshall News Messenger  

By Katie Jarl (Dec 26, 2018)

For more than six years, Marshall has been trying to determine what to do about its antiquated, 50-year-old animal shelter. Several years ago, I visited the shelter in Marshall myself. In my position as the Texas Senior State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, I have visited many shelters, and Marshall’s is one of the saddest and most outdated facilities I’ve encountered. It really is a relic from the past that is incapable of functioning to today’s standards. It should have been replaced decades ago. Unfortunately, it’s still in use because of arguments over money. Specifically, how much to invest.


I would like to make a point that many may not have considered but relates to the financial welfare of your community for years to come.
If you build the cheapest facility you can, you may end up losing huge amounts of money over the lifetime of the new shelter.

Why is that?


Most shelters rely heavily on grant funding.
National and local organizations are on the lookout for innovative programs and offer grants to shelters that are succeeding on various metrics or are capable of meeting the needs of the communities that they serve.


A while back, I saw two of the plans being considered; Scheme P and Scheme U.


The smaller plan (P) would struggle to meet these standards because it would be inadequate from the day it opened its doors.


It was only 1,000 square feet larger than your current 1,475 square foot shelter.


The other plan (U) had the capacity to serve your region and potentially achieve low-kill status.


At just over a million dollars, it was still quite inexpensive but would likely attract grant funding and would be seen by those on the outside as a sign of serious commitment by the local community.


If Marshall had built an adequate new shelter years ago, the town could have had several years of grant funding already in the shelter’s coffers.

This amount is lost forever now due to the delays, but if you spend enough to build the right kind of shelter, Marshall’s people and animals will benefit from this.


If you do not build a facility that meets your needs and is up to today’s standards, that money, and more importantly the lives of so many animals, will be lost to you forever.


Attempting to save money by under-building will cost you untold sums in the future.


I’ve seen communities make this mistake before and regret it.
Don’t be one of them. Build your shelter with the future in mind.
You aren’t building something for the next five years.


If history is any gauge you may be building it for the next fifty. Choose wisely.

————

Katie Jarl


Katie Jarl is the Texas Senior State Director for the Humane Society of the United States.

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