“We have a lot of mouths out there to feed,” Beth Florek, director of the Humane Society of the Delta told members of the Helena-West Helena Kiwanis Club at their noon luncheon meeting Wednesday.
Florek and Gloria Higginbotham, chairman of the HSD's board of directors, were present to inform the Kiwanians about the status of the animal shelter. The Humane Society facility consists of two buildings, an old warehouse and the old MFA Oil Co. building, both located on Old Little Rock Road. Phillips County and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have constructed a new animal control facility near the site.
“The Humane Society of the Delta is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help control the animal population and to find forever homes for animals in our care,” commented Florek.
According to Florek, currently there are about 76 puppies that need to be adopted. Cats also are available. Recently, someone left a box of 10 kittens on the doorstep of HSD.
“HSD is not animal control, so we cannot pickup stray animals,” continued Florek.
Florek added that the city does not have an animal control officer.
HSD, says Florek, achieves its goals by applying for grants to fund low cost spay and neuter clinics, providing foster homes for the animals and eventually adoption. The agency, however, is limited to the number of puppies they can take in at one time due to limited funds and staff. Currently, the limit is 80.
“The staff is not doing this for the money because they make only the minimum wage,” stated Florek. “They take of the animals because they love them.”
When the facility reaches capacity, Florek said the puppies are sent to a “no-kill” facility in Illinois.
Now in its sixth year, HSD has managed to find forever homes for about 1,000 pets.
The organization is supported by donations only and Florek stressed that HSD is truly grateful for the tremendous community support and prays that it will continue. On the Humane Society's wish list is fencing – to keep unwanted intruders out and keep the dogs from escaping. The facilities also need to improve heating.
“It touches my heart what the people of Phillips County are doing to help these homeless animals,” said Higginbotham. “We have survived the dogs being turned loose in the St. Francis National Forest and intruders who used our dogs as bait to train fighting dogs. We are still here.
“It doesn't matter what city and county government does or doesn't do, it is the people who care and are compassionate. Most rarely refuse to help unless they simply can't afford to do so. Phillips County has a lot of problems but I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.”
Higginbotham continued saying the HSD is more than just a bunch of women taking in poor stray dogs.
Page 2 of 2 - “Animals provide humans with companionship and unconditional love,” Higginbotham added. “We're making a difference.”
Higginbotham noted that HSD does investigate reports of animal abuse.
“Don't mess with the girls,” she concluded.
In lieu of presents, Kiwanis Club members donated food for the shelter's animals at their annual Christmas party.