The surge of interest in local politics has inspired me to pay more attention to an issue dear to my heart: the state-of-the-art animal shelter that has been discussed for two years, and which Payson and the dedicated Humane Society staff deserve.
The hope this shelter would be built was one reason I moved from Los Angeles to Payson. For over two years, I volunteered three to five days a week at the Pasadena Humane Society, but made it a practice to visit less fortunate shelters in the surrounding area. Under-funded, archaic shelters were virtually empty, the morale low, and the euthanasia statistics unacceptable. Volunteers were scarce. I would argue that a modern shelter is imperative, not only as a symbol of pride and compassion in Payson, but for the mental welfare and morale of those who work there, and for its ultimate purpose of saving as many animals as possible.
Working with suffering, often doomed, animals is terribly traumatic, even in the best of circumstances. Modern shelters do not eliminate, but to some extent alleviate, the sense of hopelessness that appeared to pervade the overcrowded shelters I witnessed in urban Los Angeles.
People wanted to volunteer at the Pasadena shelter because it was a pleasant place to be. Their roster of active volunteers at any given time hovers between 300 and 350. So many people want to enroll, that staff periodically has to suspend the Volunteer Orientation Program. The pleasant, organized environment fostered teamwork and devotion. Adoption counselors and volunteers became effusive salespeople and found homes for dogs and cats, sometimes working behind the scenes with rescue organizations when other possibilities were exhausted. Last March in Pasadena, there was not a single euthanization of an adoptable animal.
Finally, a modern shelter is simply good business. By creating a shelter that people want to visit, the odds of adoption proliferate. Visitors linger at nice shelters and frequently return. In Pasadena, many "regulars" visited the shelter every day simply to hand out treats and socialize.
Admittedly, Pasadena -- with its annual budget of nearly $3.4 million, modern medical facilities, public relations department and gift shop -- is an anomaly. But Payson can, and should, help lift the Humane Society into the modern age, not only for the animals, but for the individuals who have devoted themselves to a noble and difficult cause, and for the pride of the city.
Michael Crowley, Payson