By Linda Harber

Two organizations are working hard to save animal lives in Harrison County.

The Pet Place, the non-profit Humane Society of Harrison County’s (HSHC) animal shelter, opened a dozen years ago, though HSHC has long had a presence here. In fact, it was the society that built what is today the Marshall Police Department’s Animal Control Shelter.

The shelter was deeded over to the city in 1968 with the proviso that no animal would ever be turned away. The city maintained responsibility for animal control functions, while HSHC processed adoptions and provided all-around assistance to the shelter.

In 2005, HSHC was detached from the shelter, and the society planned a new adoption center. A local philanthropist donated land and a builder erected a building at his own cost.

The Pet Place opened in January 2007, and Kay Hill became its first and only full-time employee. She has two part-time employees and numerous volunteers, who keep the facility clean and the animals exercised and socialized. The interior is bright and cheery, and the building presents a welcoming face to the public.

The Pet Place takes in about 400 dogs and cats per year; some as owner surrenders and many as rescues from Marshall’s shelter. Kay is able to select the most adoptable animals, and once taken in, they are kept until a permanent home is found. Before that happens, each animal is checked by a veterinarian, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered.

In addition to adoptions, HSHC provides educational talks to schools and offers free spay and neuter opportunities for qualified low-income pet owners.

Friends of Marshall Animals (FOMA), also a non-profit, was formed in 2012 as an organized effort to replace Marshall’s antiquated animal shelter. It holds or participates in a number of fundraising events; most notably the biennial FOMA Casino Night Gala.

While a low-kill shelter, properly planned and funded, is the ultimate goal of FOMA, its founders recognized that vast numbers of adoptable animals would be put to a needless death in the meantime. This led to proactive efforts to save as many as possible, while members continue to lobby and raise funds for the new shelter.

Thanks to vigorous public education and outreach, and to the fact that spaying and neutering have become the norm in many parts of the country, there is sometimes more demand than supply when it comes to shelter dogs. Networks are being created to transfer dogs to shelters where they will be guaranteed a permanent home, but the transfers can be complicated, as well as expensive, to arrange. For the time being, they are occasional opportunities. Still, transports have saved a number of local shelter dogs’ lives.

Later in November, 16 to 20 shelter dogs are expected to travel to a private shelter ine New York. Donors on Facebook responded generously to FOMA’s request for contributions to cover fuel and medical prerequisites; so much so that two trips, rather than the one originally planned, are now in the works.

FOMA members may be asked to bring along a hitchhiker on any trip, in order to get an animal to a home. Cats and dogs from Harrison County are enjoying the good life in places like Dallas, Denver and Las Vegas, thanks to FOMA. In what may be the most interesting rescue placement, two large ex-Marshall dogs are now on tour with the rock band Ghost Wolves. One of the two is featured ianother Texas band, the Black Pumas.

A pet fostering program is another means by which FOMA is saving animals from Marshall’s shelter. You can read about Rocky the bait dog, the sad story with a happy ending, and other animal tales in my next column.