Humane Association celebrating 40th Anniversary with open house

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The Champaign County Humane Association, Inc. (CCHA) is celebrating its 40th Anniversary with a Christmas Open House at Paws Animal Shelter Saturday, December 9, from 2-5 p.m. In addition to raffles and refreshments, there will be adoptable kittens, cats, and dogs.

CCHA was founded in 1977 by a group of concerned citizens to promote humane treatment of animals and to help prevent suffering and abuse of animals in Champaign County. The first officers were President Cecelia Walter, Treasurer Pat Pond, and Secretary Virginia Powell. Other founding members included: Laverna Engle, Sue LeMieux, Dr. Robert Livingston, Nora Max, Joyce Newlin, Imogene Reisinger, Kay Schneider, Kermit Stockton, Betty Jane “BJ” Taylor, and Dr. Charles Wingfield.

CCHA was formed as an independent membership organization. Members vote for trustees who manage all business matters and organize fundraisers. All trustees are volunteers and receive no monetary compensation. CCHA receives no funding from the county or state. All funding comes from donations, fundraisers, membership dues, adoption fees, grants, and bequests.

In the early years, CCHA concentrated on five primary activities: (1) educational programs at local schools to teach and promote the humane treatment of animals, (2) an annual Rabies Clinic, (3) improvements to the county dog pound, (4) the investigation of suspected abuse or neglect cases by the Humane Agent, and (5) fundraising.

In 1980, retired schoolteacher Beatrice West passed away and left CCHA a generous bequest. After much study, debate, and additional fundraising, CCHA decided to build an animal shelter. Land was purchased from Bryce Hill on West U.S. Highway 36 and the shelter was started in 1990. The grand opening of Paws Animal Shelter was held on June 15, 1991. During this period of planning and building the Shelter, CCHA was led by President Kay Schneider.

After years of successful operation, in 2008, Paws Animal Shelter needed some major work. It was at this time that Tony McLaughlin and his wife, Nila Randall, visited Paws. They were concerned about the condition of the shelter and the welfare of the animals. They also discovered that there were only three remaining Trustees on the Board of the Champaign County Humane Association, which owns and operates Paws. In addition, CCHA was in dire financial straits and Paws was soon going to close. Tony and Nila found other animal lovers to join with the three remaining Board members to form a new Board. This Board took responsibility for a large mortgage, many outstanding bills, and a new loan to renovate the shelter.

In addition to helping with the cleaning and renovations, the new Board personally paid some of Paws’ outstanding bills. Tony and Nila furnished most of the dog and cat food, litter and medications for over six months. In October, Paws received a kennel makeover from Iams. This allowed the creation of a much-needed cattery. They also furnished a computer, printer, and a storage room full of dog and cat food, cleaning supplies and paper products.

The physical renovations were just part of the changes made at Paws. Procedures were revised to follow guidelines from the Humane Society of the U.S. and the American Humane Association in the cleaning of the shelter, the duties of the employees and volunteers, and adoption and surrender procedures.

When dogs arrive at the shelter, they are checked for heartworm, given the DHPP vaccine and Bordetella for kennel cough, and treated for fleas and worms, if needed. All cats are tested for feline leukemia, given the cat vaccine, and treated for fleas, worms and ear mites, if needed. Both dogs and cats are now being spayed or neutered before adoption. If the animal is too young to be spayed or neutered before adoption, Paws requires a prepaid spay/neuter certificate to be purchased at adoption.

All of these improvements to maintain the health of the shelter animals increase the cost of operating the shelter. However, the largest increase in operating cost is from the increase in the number of employees. In 2013, the government stopped requiring mandatory community service by recipients of government assistance programs. The shelter animals require daily care and without these daily volunteers, it was necessary to hire enough employees to properly tend to the animals.

Since opening in 1991, Paws Animal Shelter has placed thousands of stray or abandoned dogs and cats in forever homes. In addition, CCHA and Paws offer reduced price cat spay/neuter clinics, continue to support educational and community animal-related events, and assist in the return of lost animals to their owners. Currently, there are 13 dogs, 39 cats and 12 kittens at Paws waiting for their forever homes.

Although Paws Animal Shelter is owned and operated by CCHA, it is really owned by the community. It is only through continuous community support and donations that an independent shelter can survive. Many local shelters have closed, such as those in Clark County and Logan County. Paws has come a long way from nearly closing in 2008, but without additional and continuous support, Paws will again face a dire financial situation in the near future. This community support is needed in the form of financial donations, volunteer assistance, and the donations of supplies. The most frequently needed supplies include Purina dog, cat, and kitten food, laundry soap, Dawn dish soap, bleach, and trash bags (39 gal.). Volunteers may help clean the shelter, walk dogs, socialize with the animals, or assist with fundraising activities. Financial assistance may take the form of donations, monthly or quarterly pledges, or bequests.

The Champaign County Humane Association wants to thank the residents of Champaign County and surrounding communities for 40 years of support and hopes for continued support for many more years. They invite everyone to visit Paws Animal Shelter! Please come to the Christmas Open House on Saturday, December 9 from 2-5 p.m. at 1535 West U.S. Highway 36 or visit during regular business hours (Tuesday-Friday 12-5 and Saturday 12-4).

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