Generous donations and volunteers mean compassionate shelter for animals
Six months after opening the Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard, staff and volunteers have expanded hours, placed dozens of animals in new homes, and continue to operate the shelter entirely from donations.
The new organization took over on May 1, after the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) said it could no longer afford to run the shelter. The MSPCA said it ran the shelter at a deficit of about $130,000 annually over the past several years. So far, donations have covered the entire operating expense for the shelter. The new organization has not drawn on any public funds.
"We had a great fundraiser this summer," shelter manager Lisa Hayes said. "We raised $16,000. Every single day people walk in the door with donations."
Dukes County commissioners agreed to provide administrative support for the shelter, and fund operations from the county's reserve account, with the understanding that the six Island towns would reimburse the county. But so far, the shelter has not drawn on any public funds.
"I will go back to the towns with a six-month report," county manager Russell Smith said, "not only on what we've done financially, but with the building. I'm going to ask the towns to continue their support if needed. The county will continue to manage it for another six months."
Mr. Smith said donations to date total approximately $65,000.
According to Ms. Hayes, the shelter has taken in 44 animals in the five months it has been running, and 38 of those animals have either been placed with Island families or have placements pending.
"We're able to meet the demand," Ms. Hayes said. "We have many volunteers. Without them we wouldn't be able to stay open." Ms. Hayes works full time, and has one part-time employee, in addition to the many volunteers.
The first month following the takeover was spent cleaning, repairing, and painting the Edgartown facility. The shelter has expanded its hours since opening. It is now open Wednesday through Friday from 8:30 am to 6 pm, and Saturday from 8:30 am to 4 pm. Ms. Hayes says the extra hours allow more people to get to the shelter, and gives high school students and other volunteers a greater range of hours to help out.
While animals are at the shelter, Ms. Hayes and her staff try to make them as comfortable as possible. "It has really been positive," she said. "The animals live in a home situation. The dogs all get a chance to come in the office and hang out. That's our mission, to keep them as close to a home situation as possible."