Saving Lives & Improving Lifestyles of Galveston’s Homeless Animals

By Lori Thompson

The Galveston Island Humane Society (GIHS) celebrated its one-year anniversary in its original location last November. GIHS Executive Director Caroline Dorsett-Pate and Board President Paul Vincent are proud of the 7,800-square-foot facility and the services it offers. The shelter serves Galveston Island and has an open-admission policy for Galveston residents who bring in found or unwanted animals and works to do what is best for each animal. Only feral, aggressive or very unhealthy animals are considered to be unadoptable. But, according to Vincent, the center’s “phenomenal staff take each animal and treat it with utmost care, whether adoptable or not.”

Each dog has their own inside climate-controlled space with a doggie door leading to an outdoor area, complete with artificial grass, that is shared between two dogs. Each day, dogs are taken to a run area to play and interact with the other dogs. Even quarantined animals have the same indoor/outdoor arrangement. Cats have their own space too, which includes an area to interact with other cats.
The Galveston Island Humane Society is “solely dedicated to the cause and welfare of unwanted or homeless animals,” according to their mission statement. Community services offered include adoption of homeless or surrendered animals, facilitation of cruelty investigations, pet therapy and intake of all City of Galveston Animal Control strays, surrenders and quarantined bite cases.

One of the primary shelter services is housing and food for the animals. But there is so much more offered. Animals’ health and behavior are assessed for adoptability. They are offered routine health care such as immunizations, worming and treatment for minor injuries. Low-income families are eligible for spay and neuter assistance and adoption specials are offered. In addition, GIHS works to educate the community on the importance of caring for pets and what to do with found animals or pets one is no longer able to take care of. Community education includes ASPCA Kind Newsletter provided to GISD third graders, participation in local activities and presentations to community organizations. Often, the shelter features adoptable pets at Petsmart and PetCo, as well as special events such as the home and garden show. The shelter partners with the Houston SPCA and other rescue groups that take in animals when the shelter is overpopulated, and has a list of rescue organizations that place special breeds.
Unfortunately, the shelter is forced to euthanize animals that are wild or feral, very sick or badly injured and/or aggressive. This allows the shelter to remain an open adoption shelter; one that will take in any cat or dog that is brought in.

An additional community service the shelter offers is “Fix ‘Em for Five.” During the months of February and October, spay and neuter services cost only $5. Finally, a Drive-Through Vaccination clinic, called “Healthy Pets,” will soon be available. This will be a series of clinics offered to economically disadvantaged residents of Galveston Island who own unvaccinated pets. Initial core vaccinations will be given to 275 puppies or dogs and 100 kittens or cats. Plans are to begin offering these clinics by 2012.
Intake at the shelter is approximately 3,000 animals each year, but last year that number dropped to 2,600. This is a result of the services and education that are given. Pet adoptions are also on the rise. This August, GIHS participated in “Homeward Bound…Paws for the Challenge!” In the initial run, GIHS came in 18th in the nation to become one of 49 shelters across the country competing to win up to $100,000 in grant money from the ASPCA. The goal of each participating shelter was to adopt out at least 300 more animals during August-October of this year than during the same time period last year. Many humane societies from much larger cities competed, so GIHS did not take first place, but they did adopt 105 more pets than last year during the same time, and any increase in the number of adoptions is a win, for the shelter, the community and most importantly, for the animals.
GIHS has goals to continue population control through increased spay/neuter assistance fund, improve the facility, increase adoptions, expand services related to animal health and reach more grade levels and community groups with education. GIHS is non-profit, and so relies on the community to be able to continue the crucial work it does.
Needed items include dry pet food, leashes, collars, grooming supplies, toys, kitty litter, cat beds, old towels, bleach and cleaning supplies, trash bags, liquid laundry and dish soap, paper towels and office supplies. All donations are tax deductible. The shelter could not run without the many dedicated volunteers, according to Vincent, and volunteers and foster families are always needed and greatly appreciated.
The beautiful GIHS facility is located at 6814 Broadway. Learn more about the shelter and the current adoptable animals at galvestonhumane.org or call 409-740-1919.

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