The mission of the Lamar County Humane Association has changed little over the years — to prevent cruelty to animals, to relieve their suffering and to educate the public in humane care and treatment of animals. But that mission has significantly changed the fate of animals entering the City of Paris animal shelter, which has partnered with the association to find homes for its dogs and cats.
Lamar County Humane Association President Keith Flowers made a significant discovery last year about how profound the impact of that partnership has been. While reading The Paris News, Flowers said, he noticed a “Today In History” article on the Voices page featuring a September 1993 story about the number of animals going into the shelter and their fates.
That year, the article stated, the Paris Animal Shelter had 193 dogs brought in. Of those, 172 were euthanized.
No more, however.
Flowers said the shelter in September 2018 added 166 dogs to its canine population, and 159 were either adopted or sent to rescues throughout the nation. Thirteen dogs that month were reclaimed by their owners, he added, and just 12 were euthanized, either due to injury, illness or biting.
And it only gets better from there. This year through May, Flowers said, the shelter has sent out 703 animals to rescue. In a typical year, he said, the Lamar County Humane Association will place more than 2,000 animals.
“So far this year, we’ve done a better job than ever in the history of the Humane Association getting animals out,” Flowers said. “Those numbers show what a change we’ve had in 25 years and what a job the Humane Association and the shelter is doing to get these animals out alive.”
The efforts are paying off, according to rescue coordinator Stephanie Corley, as the shelter now has a 93% live release rate. The 7% of animals euthanized are either severely injured or are ill beyond the benefits of medical care. Biters also may be euthanized to prevent injuries to those who might adopt them.
“We are the only organization around that is responsible for the placement of the animals from the City of Paris Animal Shelter,” Flowers said.
Taking animals in
Once an animal enters the shelter, the Lamar County Humane Association ensures they receive vaccinations — an act the association only began doing a few years ago.
Animals are immediately given a kennel cough shot and, depending on their age, are given either a five-way or nine-way vaccine, which covers the animal for various diseases they could pick up in a sheltered environment.
“If an animal comes into the shelter, and it is sick or injured, it is the Humane Association — we pick up the vet bills,” Flowers said.
“There is no money in the City of Paris budget for vetting the animals. The Humane Association is responsible for that.”
The association then gets to work to find that animal a home either through local adoption or by sending them to northern rescues. Animals may also be sent to other agencies with a high live rate release or no-kill designation.
The Lamar County Humane Association will even drive the animals anywhere in the U.S. Transports to rescues in states with much stricter spay and neuter laws, something that inhibits those rescues from having enough animals to adopt out, have become a regular weekend affair. Sometimes, people will drive to the association and shelter themselves to get a pet.
“Unfortunately, we have a kill shelter, as most are in the South,” Flowers said. “We do not have a great deal of laws that force pet owners to rescue their pets or make sure that their pets are spayed and etc. That is what leads to the pet overpopulation that we have here locally. We have a severe overpopulation problem.”
Funding that saves lives
The Lamar County Humane Association is a nonprofit organization with an annual expenditure of $251,000, Flowers said. Although it charges adoption fees, it’s hardly enough to fully fund its efforts.
Each adoption costs the association money because it has invested in saving the life of the animal by paying for rabies shots, spaying or neutering and other vaccines. Adoption fees offset some of that cost, but the association doesn’t want to make adoption unaffordable, Flowers said.
To help fund its budget, the Lamar County Humane Association hosts fundraisers, like its upcoming Dog Days of Summer Gala at the Love Civic Center, 2025 S. Collegiate Drive in Paris, on June 29. The association also always accepts monetary donations.
“Someone has to be the voice of the animals,” Flowers said. “The animals are totally innocent in this.The animals didn’t have to be abandoned. If we just gave up and said that someone else could do this, there may not be a somebody else, and it will be back to the numbers that we had 25 years ago where we were euthanized over 90% of everything that came in.
“I just don’t want to live in a community where if an animal goes to the shelter, it’s a death sentence for that animal. I think we can do better than that.”