A dog-day at the St. Joseph County Humane Society

By: Ryan Famuliner Email
By: Ryan Famuliner Email

Our hidden camera investigation took you inside the St. Joseph County Humane Society, where more than 500 animals are housed in a facility built for 300.

Now, we bring you an even closer look.

After our special reports, board members at the Humane Society suggested we find out what an average day is like at the facility.

Deciding it was worth a look, WNDU’s Ryan Famuliner went to spend a day as a Humane Society employee.

He was there from open to close Tuesday, to try to get a better feel for what the workers there deal with on a daily basis.

He started the morning as they do every day, cleaning out the mess from the night before.

“We scoop out any mess or anything that’s in the kennel. After we scoop we have to make sure we dip the shovel in bleach so we don’t spread and disease and bacteria. After that we go ahead and we soak them down scrub down no just to floors, the walls, the cages, to prevent the spread of disease. After that go-through, we bleach it down, actually get it clean, rinse it, and squeegee it. Give them food and water, go ahead and let them back in,” said employee Josh Miller, describing the process of cleaning the “bunkers” in the dog quarantine area. It takes nearly all day to clean the inside and outside of just one of the wings of the facility.

It's more or less a constant process, to make sure the more than 500 animals each have a clean environment.

“It’s definitely not the funnest job in the world. If you work here you have to love the animals,” Miller said.

Cat cages need the same attention, too. Cleaning those lasted well into the afternoon.

And you never know what will walk through the door to take you off-task, since they also handle animal control for the city and county.

While we were at the facility, raccoons were dropped off.

They say wildlife is usually sent to a rescue shelter, let loose in the country, or put down if it's injured.

Throughout the day, many people came in to look for animals to adopt.

The Humane Society says over the last weekend, they had almost 30 adoptions--far above the average.

“We definitely hope that it continues, these animals deserve a place, they deserve a home, they deserve somebody that’s going to love them,” said employee Lorie Hudgen.

But many animals are still losing their homes.

Near closing time, the frustration was obvious.

About 20 cats and dogs, most of which appeared to have owners at one point, were brought in by animal control or found dumped in the city. 3 litters and almost no place to put them.

“We try to do the best we can, we try to find room for them, we try to set them up the best that we can. Like you guys saw with the crates at one time, we find the biggest crate that we can, and put them, in there, let them calm down. We make space for them, because they don’t stay in there for that long,” Hudgen said.

It's hard work, high stress, and low pay.

But some say they wouldn't trade it for the world.

“You know this is our job, this is what we do day in and day out, we're here for the animals,” Hudgen said.

Some of the animals that came in at the end of the day were fostered by employees, literally taking their work home with them.

While some volunteer work could help, the director says again the real keys are spaying and neutering, and adopting, and ultimately, they need a new facility to replace the 70-year-old one.

The director says the turnover is a big problem. It's hard to find a hard worker that's qualified who will work there long-term for what they pay.

They try to rotate employees through different parts of the facility to avoid them getting burnt out, but there's a lot of work to do everywhere with so many animals.

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