Sunday, May 27 , 2018, 7:04 pm | Fair 64º

 
 
 
 
Advice

Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society Building New Steps Atop a Long-Standing Foundation

Shelter expands veterinary services, hours and procedures while maintaing focus on ‘how many animals can we save?’

Emily Grossheider, executive director of the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society, says the Buellton shelter organization is continuously exploring ways to better serve the community, including its dogs and cats. “As a society, we don’t want to be killing animals, so how can we save them?” she asks. Click to view larger
Emily Grossheider, executive director of the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society, says the Buellton shelter organization is continuously exploring ways to better serve the community, including its dogs and cats. “As a society, we don’t want to be killing animals, so how can we save them?” she asks. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

[Noozhawk’s note: This article is the first in a series sponsored by the Hutton Parker Foundation.]

A group can be proud of its history but still strive for improvement. The Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society is proof of that.

In the early 1970s, several dedicated women and men in the valley began to rescue lost and unwanted animals and find homes for them. They didn’t have an official organization or any financial support, and they sheltered the animals in their own houses until they could place them permanently.

They also drove the nearly 100-mile round trip each week to the Santa Barbara Humane Society to have the rescued animals spayed or neutered, and then made the same drive a day later to pick them up.

Within a few years these independent volunteers had incorporated as the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society, and nearly 40 years later the nonprofit organization continues their mission.

Formally, that mission is described as providing people with what they need to raise happy, healthy companion animals; giving people the resources needed to control the population of feral and domestic animals; and giving companion animals the chance for a brighter future.

Or, more succinctly, “How many animals can we save?” in the words of shelter director Emily Grossheider.

The SYV Humane Society is focused on that single issue.

“As a society, we don’t want to be killing animals, so how can we save them?” Grossheider added.

No single activity can provide the answer, so the Humane Society takes on a variety of tasks that go beyond placing pets into homes.

Its role includes educating and supporting local pet owners, providing veterinary and other services, networking with other organizations, recruiting and training volunteers and, of course, fundraising.

The organization is also trying to find new ways to succeed, Grossheider says, which is one of the things that led her to take the job as the local shelter director in May 2014. Before that, she served as director at DAWG (the Dog Adoption & Welfare Group) in Santa Barbara.

“The board of directors here is very much about innovation,” she explained. “There is a lot of room to grow as an organization and in our rescue effort.”

One big addition is a dental clinic, which was started about a year ago at the society’s animal shelter at 111 Commerce Drive in Buellton. That’s important because dental care can play a big role in the health, longevity and comfort of pets.

Pets are good at hiding pain, so they don’t typically show any behaviors that warn their owners about gum disease and infections. But a lack of dental care can lead to loss of bone and tissue around a pet’s teeth, loss of teeth, jaw fractures, bone infections, and even damage to the heart, liver and kidneys.

Exercise and play time are just as important to the shelter’s animals as they are to humans. Click to view larger
Exercise and play time are just as important to the shelter’s animals as they are to humans. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

If nothing else, a pet without dental pain will eat better and be healthier.

Pet owners may not understand the need for dental care but even if they do, many are deterred by the cost. Cleaning a pet’s teeth requires expensive general anesthesia, for example.

Grossheider advises pet owners to use their own veterinarians if they can afford it because veterinarians’ offices have more complete sets of equipment. But for those who can’t afford a vet visit, there is the Humane Society’s dental clinic. It’s not free, but it costs much less than veterinarians charge.

“Our primary goal is always to serve the animal,” she said, but happily the dental clinic also has raised a little money.

Each local Humane Society stands on its own financially, with no help from a national organization or government grants or other tax dollars, so raising money is a constant need. The SYV Humane Society depends on donations of many kinds and on revenue from its successful thrift store in Solvang.

In another conversion of space, the society remodeled its caretakers’ trailer this year to turn half of it into quarters for cats awaiting adoption. The cat census can vary widely, from 20 to 70 in a single month, and the numbers get overwhelming as kittens are born each spring.

So far this year, the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society has found homes for 235 cats and dogs. Click to view larger
So far this year, the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society has found homes for 235 cats and dogs. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

A less fortunate change is the big increase in the organization’s workload. In all of 2014, the SYV Humane Society found homes for about 100 cats and 125 dogs, a total of 225 animals. In just the first seven months of this year, it placed 235.

In the same seven months the group has provided about 500 spay and neuter procedures after performing 544 in all of 2014. Stated another way, the group has provided 71 spay-neuters per month this year compared with 45 per month a year ago — an increase of almost 60 percent.

In its search for ways to innovate, the shelter has also started a foster system for very young kittens, which can’t be spayed or neutered, to be placed in permanent homes before they are 8 weeks old.

Another change has been the expansion of the shelter’s hours to be more customer-friendly. The shelter is now open from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday — “so working people can still come in and adopt,” Grossheider said.

Another big push has been to offer training sessions for pets and their owners. The free sessions began in January.

“A lot of people show up a little embarrassed at their dog’s behavior,” Grossheider said, but the trainers create a “safe space” where owners can admit what they don’t know and learn how to improve their own skills and their dog’s behavior.

The Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society is located at 111 Commerce Drive in Buellton. Click here for more information, email [email protected] or call 805.688.8224. Click here to make an online donation.

Noozhawk contributing writer Dave Bemis can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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