During economic downturns and fiscally difficult times, one area that people may not realize that feels this difficulty more than most are nonprofit animal protection groups like local humane shelters.
This is definitely the case for the Union Humane Society, formed in 2008 by a small group of Union Parish residents who wanted to help Union Parish and the neglected, homeless and suffering animals in the area.
The Union Humane Society is a 501(c) 3 organization and depends largely on donations from individuals and groups both locally and all over the country. The society’s budget is roughly $9,500 a month with veterinary bills making up the greatest cost per month. All animals in the care of the Humane Society must be vaccinated and treated for heartworms and other parasites. Many of these unfortunate animals are in such poor condition that they require extraordinary care such as surgery or special types of medication. All animals of age must also be spayed or neutered. Lynn Fontana who has been with the society since its inception lists the other many costs involved with caring for these poor and neglected animals, “We must pay transport fees for animals that are sent to other rescues, we must buy feed for all of the animals in our care and we try to pay the costs of care and equipment for those animals that are required when they are fostered. This past month there has been a great deal of expense to create warm and clean places for the animals.”
The Humane Society and the animals that it helps mean a great deal to Fontana and all those who help and serve the society. “Our mission is to rescue and care for abandoned and abused animals. We are constantly getting calls on sightings of animals at dumpsters or strays in people’s yards. We also try to help the Union Parish Sheriff ’s office when they have cases of animal abuse or neglect,” said Fontana.
The Humane Society has 75 or more animals in their care at any given time. “As soon as we are able to move an animal out, another one or more takes its place,” Fontana said. The Humane Society provides an invaluable service to Union Parish. In 2020 this group of volunteers transported 568 dogs, adopted out 68 dogs or cats, and spayed or neutered 617 dogs or cats. “That means we have saved 638 animals from starvation and disease,” Fontana said.
Why should you as a Union Parish resident care about the Humane Society? Stray, feral, and animals in need tend to carry disease and some of them will form packs for their own preservation. They become fearful of humans who have abandoned or mistreated them. “Property owners should realize that the value of their property is decreased by abandoned animals who roam neighborhoods and streets. Businesses are affected when hungry animals try to get into their stores or just stand at the door begging,” said Fontana. Fontana explained that many residents and visitors to the parish are upset when they call to report strays and there is no one to respond. “They are confused that there is no one to report to, no one who can come and get the animal,” said Fontana.
Law dictates that the Sheriff ’s office investigate cases of abuse, neglect, and abandonment. “However, even when these cases are proven, there is no place in Union Parish for an officer to take these animals,” Fontana said.
Union Parish Sheriff Dusty Gates said, “We do investigate those occurrences. We reach out to our local shelter first, and sometimes they tell us they don’t have room. Then we have to go outside the parish, like to Ouachita, and sometimes they can take them, but they charge a fee for each animal.
There can be no doubt the organization is in desperate need of a shelter to house the animals and supplies that are needed. In 2012, Eugene Neal donated 56 acres of property and $100,000 to build a shelter. Through fundraising and donations the Humane Society has doubled that amount of money. “The Union Humane Society has the property, the plan, and the funds to build a shelter for our parish. What we need is a little help from the governing bodies of our parish to continue to do what we have been doing for them for free for the last 12 years,” said Fontana. “We need funds for the day-to-day operating costs of the shelter such as utility bills, food, equipment, and salaries for necessary employees.”
The Town of Marion has agreed to help by signing a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with the Humane Society. Marion Mayor, Danny Smith is proud that his town has stepped up to help the society. “When the Union Humane Society approached us about contributing, I consulted our town attorney and he confirmed that as long as we entered into a corporate agreement, we could definitely contribute. I brought it before our town council and we signed the legal documents allowing us to contribute an annual amount of $1,000 to the society,” said Smith. Smith is extremely grateful for the services that the Humane Society provides. “I think it needs to be expanded and supported. I am very pleased that Marion was the first town to enter into an agreement to support the invaluable services that they provide,” said Smith. Fontana is hopeful that the agreement with Marion will lead to more support. “A couple of other townships have agreed to discuss possible commitments similar to Marion. The citizens of Union Parish need the Union Parish Police Jury to step up and do their part,” Fontana said.
Union Humane Society has benefitted from Dr. Damon Odom and his staff at Odom Veterinary Hospital and Dr. Brantley and the staff at Union Veterinary Clinic. “It would be impossible for us to do what we do with out our veterinarians and their patience and understanding,” said Fontana.
Fontana urges all Union Parish residents to spay and neuter their pets. If assistance is needed, call 318-778- 0865. If any parish resident sees an animal in need, call 318-620-0062. If anyone would like to donate or volunteer to help with the animals, call 318-620- 0062. Those who would like to donate can also make direct donations to the veterinary costs by contacting Odom Veterinary Hospital at 318-368-6060 or Union Veterinary Clinic at 318-368-2137.