Leavenworth County Humane Society cares about how well people in the county are familiar with the dedicated local groups in the community that are working to help people and pets.

Leavenworth County Humane Society cares about how well people in the county are familiar with the dedicated local groups in the community that are working to help people and pets.
They want not only to find out how much people know about the animal welfare groups, but also where they get their information.

The LCHS is conducting a survey to learn about Leavenworth County residents’ experience with stray/abandoned/unwanted animals in different parts of the county and to quantify the demand and support for basic animal services. Basically, the survey is designed to help estimate awareness and demand related to animal services in the county.

In a 2014-15 survey conducted by LCHS, nearly 500 individuals responded, with 97 percent confirming the need for a pet animal shelter to serve all Leavenworth County residents. Many specifically asked for a no-kill shelter and 80 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay $10 per household or $10 per pet annually for those services. An additional 14 percent said they would be willing to dedicate 1 percent of their municipal or county budget for animal services.

“There’s a great deal of confusion and frustration about animal services in our county,” says LCHS CEO/Executive Director Crystal Swann Blackdeer. “Leavenworth’s shelter is built, staffed and funded to serve the citizens of Leavenworth, not the entire county. A lot of people don’t learn that until they need a place for a stray/abandoned/unwanted pet to go. They discover their city (outside of Leavenworth) can’t take in the pet they want to re-home. Or they live in the county and discover that no one is held responsible or funded to deliver animal services outside city limits.”

LCHS, Inc. became Crystal’s mission because she says the majority of people in Leavenworth County have no one who will reliably respond to their need for help with stray/abandoned/unwanted pets.  And in so much of the county, there is no place to take pets that people find or can no longer care for. 
“Ignore them, shoot them or keep them are not 21st century options,” says Crystal. “Leavenworth County people are better than that.”

The survey will help quantify the level of need, demand and support for funding of basic animal services. And with the results of the survey, elected officials are more likely to provide the services their constituents ask for and Crystal hopes officials will be more willing to include in the budget. 
“Voters decide and make things happen,” says Crystal. “If everyone who called, emailed, messaged, texted and talked to us around the county also contacted their county commissioners, the county administrator and the sheriff, we would have services provided already.”   

After completing her career in the Army, Crystal began volunteering at Leavenworth Animal Control and joined the Leavenworth Animal Welfare Society (LAWS) and also began working with Human Animal Bond.
“I became aware that animal services where I live (in the county) were practically non-existent, but people wanted those services,” says Crystal.  “It's not just about the animals. It's about the people and the communities in which we live. Even with LAWS offering free spay/neuter to any dog and cat in Leavenworth County, many of the pets who end up in our care are not sterilized when they arrive. Until every litter of puppies and kittens is planned and wanted and homed, we haven't done enough spay/neuter.”
LCHS owns the land for the new no-kill shelter. They have the plans ready and have secured permission to use the land for a shelter, but raising the money to build the new shelter is still ongoing.

“It would be great to break ground tomorrow, but realistically, it could take a couple of years to raise enough money to get to that point,” says Crystal. “Based on recommendations from a pre-campaign study we contracted in 2015, the board appointed me executive director, meaning my focus is primarily on day-to-day operations.  The study recommended that we have a physical presence, an office/shelter that people could visit, where we can demonstrate success, including serving municipal/county contracts. Another recommendation was to expand the board to include influencers in the community who could help drive a successful capital campaign. We have a great board with some extremely dedicated volunteers, but none of our current board is familiar with capital campaigns and major fundraising. We're working on gaining those missing skills through recruitment and education.” 

The permanent no-kill shelter may be a few more years in the making, but since the August 2016 opening of a temporary facility in Lansing, LCHS has cared for more than 175 cats and 150 dogs with more than 60 percent coming from outside of any of the city limits in Leavenworth County. Nearly 75 percent of those dogs and cats were lost, stray or abandoned. 

“As a no-kill organization, LCHS, Inc. will only end an animal's life when they are irretrievably ill or injured and suffering or when they present a clear danger to public safety,” says Crystal. “This decision has been made fewer than 10 times since 2009. The shelter has one part-time employee, and an extremely committed corps of volunteers. Operations are funded by intake and adoption fees, donations, fundraisers and contracts for shelter services with Basehor, Lansing and Linwood. The 1,200-square foot rented facility has space for only five dogs and 12 cats at a time. We can flex a little, temporarily, if some of the guests are small. That's not nearly enough space to accommodate all the requirements that come to us from Leavenworth County residents. We also are limited in our ability to invite the community in.  The fire marshal says we can only have 12 people in the building at a time.  When we build the real shelter, we'll be able to host groups of Scouts, students, community groups, summer camps, etc.  We'll be able to offer dog training and more volunteer experiences. We'll be able to expand operating hours and employment opportunities. The shelter will be a true community resource, available to all Leavenworth County residents. The planned facility on LCHS, Inc.-owned land in the Lansing Business Center will be 12,000 square feet, with space for approximately 30 dogs and 40 cats.”

The new no-kill shelter would serve all Leavenworth County residents.
“We need a functional, modern shelter where residents outside city limits in Leavenworth County can take pets they find to be safely cared for, where owners missing a pet know where to look for them,” says Crystal. “Every Leavenworth County resident needs to know where they can relinquish a pet they can no longer care for. It would be great if the county employed someone to respond to stray calls and transport animals to the shelter, but even having a shelter under contract would be a step in the right direction. The Sheriff's Office has a contract with the city of Leavenworth for sheltering services, but did not exercise it in 2017.”
When asked what she tells people who believe that the county needs to focus on people’s welfare before animals, Crystal believes kindness begets kindness and compassion breeds compassion and helping animals helps people.

“LCHS, Inc. may be the oldest humane organization in Kansas,” says Crystal. “It predates Topeka’s and Wichita's humane societies. LCHS, Inc. was first reported as ‘Leavenworth Humane Society’ in the Leavenworth Times in 1885.  “Incorporated in 1888, the founders stated the purpose of the organization was ‘the prevention and punishment of cruelty to children and animals and better enforcement of the laws pertaining thereto.’ Helping animals does help people. Humans experiencing mental illness, homelessness, domestic abuse and neglect very often have and care about pets. It's not a choice between people and animals. Pets are part of our lives. They are good for our health. Overall, I think communities that recognize the important role that pets play in so many of our lives and provide a safety net for people and pets are the ideal.”
As a member of LAWS, Crystal donates to the group’s efforts and believes they do a tremendous amount of work for and with Leavenworth Animal Control.

“Their pet food pantry is a huge support to the Leavenworth community and beyond,” says Crystal. “The free spay/neuter program allows more pets to be sterilized, which decreases the demand for sheltering services and improves the health of those pets.”

Crystal says members of the Board of County Commissioners and the Sheriff's Office are on the record this year acknowledging the citizens’ demand and the need for basic animal services. Despite repeated attempts by the Sheriff's Office to secure funding over past years, the BOCC has not yet funded basic animal services.
Despite the fact that most people want to provide appropriate care for the animals in their lives, Crystal believes that sometimes, they just don't know what an animal really needs.
In some cases access to resources causes the animals to suffer, but in many cases, the people caring for the animals are also not getting what they need either.  

“The statutory requirements for adequate care are pretty basic: adequate food, potable water, protection from the elements, opportunity for exercise and other care as is needed for the health or well-being of such kind of animal,” says Crystal.

The new facility will offer safety not only to strays, but community members as well. While stray dogs and cats are subject to predation, traffic, the elements and people who may seek to do them harm, the greater concern is for the public.
“Pet animals are not required to be vaccinated against even rabies in much of our county,” says Crystal. “Stray pets are a traffic hazard. They can cause injury to livestock and to owned pets as well as cause damage to property.”

For animal lovers and the general public, the new facility will be a win-win for all.
The survey is available online at www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1780732/Animal-Services-LvCo-2018
Those unable to take the survey online may request a paper copy by emailing LvnCoHS@live.com or calling 913-250-0506.