Good Shepherd Humane Society planning community cat program, disaster response
After adopting out 437 animals in 2020, Good Shepherd Humane Society has plans to create new programs to help local animals in 2021.
Cole Wakefield, director of animal operations, said he’s working to create a community cat program. The program would be focused in Eureka Springs, Wakefield said, but would expand throughout Carroll County “with the goal of building a cat support community.” Wakefield said a group of volunteers will help save cats through the trap-and-release program, where feral cats are caught, spayed or neutered and released back into their environment.
“That way, we’ll have a network to rely on for years to come,” Wakefield said. “We would love to have an independent cat support community. There’s a lot of cat lovers out there and we want to mobilize them and get that running.”
Another goal for 2021, Wakefield said, is to establish a disaster response plan for local animals. Wakefield said pets are often second thoughts when it comes to a disaster response.
“And the sad thing is, they don’t need to be. We definitely want to prioritize the people — disaster response prioritizes human lives — but pets mean a lot to people and they’re living creatures, too,” Wakefield said. “There are people who won’t evacuate a danger area if they feel like their pets aren’t going to be taken care of.”
Wakefield continued, “We want to have a response plan in place so if there is a disaster in the region like a tornado or flood, we have a response plan for the animals of the area.”
If a tornado hits 120 homes, Wakefield said, between 70 and 90 of those homes will have pets.
“So if those buildings are gone, of course you’ll lose some lives but there are going to be roaming animals and people who can’t take care of them because they’re having to go to a shelter or evacuate,” Wakefield said. “It’s a lot easier to plan ahead and have a location ready than to try to pull it all together as we go. We want to work with the community and get a proactive plan for our animals.”
Wakefield said it’s still unclear how Good Shepherd will fundraise in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Good Shepherd canceled both the Diamonds & Denim and the Bonejour Gala in 2020 — two of the biggest fundraisers for the adoption center. The thrift stores in Berryville and Eureka Springs closed for several weeks in 2020 before reopening to the public, and the Eureka Springs thrift store is still operating at reduced hours.
“We’re still in flux for next year, just like everybody else,” Wakefield said. “We are waiting on what’s going to happen with the pandemic, because that involves everything from our thrift stores to fundraising, which all affects what we do at the adoption center.”
Wakefield, who started working at the adoption center in November 2019, said his first year on the job was a whirlwind. In 2020, the adoption center adopted out 437 animals, returned 33 pets to their owners, placed 110 animals out-of-state and placed 13 animals in colonies. That’s 593 lives saved, Wakefield said, and he’s very proud of those numbers.
“I give a lot of credit to our board for saying, ‘You have the experience. Go for it,’ “ Wakefield said. “They’re always supporting us, asking the questions they need to ask and letting us do what we need to do. We’ve transformed this facility and done a lot of things I’m proud of.”
One notable proud moment, Wakefield said, is when Good Shepherd led a rescue effort to save 34 dogs from a hoarding situation in Boone County. Wakefield said Good Shepherd worked with several animal rescue organizations in Northwest Arkansas to make the rescue happen.
“I was really proud of Good Shepherd and our team and Northwest Arkansas for coming together and solving a regional issue regionally,” Wakefield said. “We didn’t have to call out for a bunch of help. We saw a problem, we came together and we got it done.”
Wakefield said he’s also proud of the revamped spay and neuter program, saying Good Shepherd tripled its capacity to provide low-cost spay and neuter to the Carroll County community.
“That’s a very important service we provide the community,” Wakefield said. “It’s been a wonderful year. Even in a year of adversity, Good Shepherd did a lot of great things and I’m really proud to be part of that.”
Wakefield said the adoption center is happy to help animals in need, but he encouraged pet owners to reconsider before they surrender an animal. Before you bring an animal to the adoption center, Wakefield said, you should consider rehoming or training them. Wakefield said Good Shepherd is always happy to help pet owners with food. In fact, the adoption center regularly donates dog and cat food to Loaves & Fishes Food Bank in Berryville.
“A shelter should really be a last-chance, no-other-option resort for an animal,” Wakefield said. “If you’re having a particular problem, you may find with a little research that you can solve that problem a lot more simply than you think.”
Wakefield added, “Let’s leave the shelter space for those dogs and cats who have no other option, who have no other place to go. It’s always better for an animal to never come to a shelter. Just like in human shelters, no matter how clean you are or how good you are, they’re dirty and there’s disease and stress.”
Wakefield emphasized that Good Shepherd is not funded by the government in any way, saying the adoption center completely relies on the thrift stores and donations to operate. That’s why donations are always accepted, Wakefield said, no matter how big or small.
“Since we are not a government agency, we could not do it without you,” Wakefield said. “Whether you’re shopping at our thrift stores or writing a $5 check or putting us in your will … however you’re supporting us, we thank you. We could not do this work without this community. The fact that we have an organization this size in this community with this much support is something Carroll County should be very proud of.”