Good Shepherd Humane Society: New manager hopes to expand out-of-state transfers, volunteer base

Thursday, November 7, 2019

By Samantha Jones

Good Shepherd Humane Society has a new shelter manager.

Board president Jay Fusaro said the board hired Chelsea Gahr last month, and she began working at the shelter in early October. Fusaro said he's grateful to former shelter manage Sandra Mittler for all she did to improve the facility.

"She did a very good job of keeping the shelter safe and clean for our animals," Fusaro said. "The board and myself were very appreciative of all that hard work she did in improving the physical appearance of the shelter. It looks terrific."

The reason the board brought on new management, Fusaro said, is because Gahr has experience running a large no-kill animal shelter in Fort Smith. Gahr said she worked at Hope Humane Society until it closed earlier this year. That shelter always had between 400 and 500 dogs, Gahr said, and at least 300 cats.

"I think everyone just got tired and they ended up closing the shelter down," Gahr said.

When she took a vacation to Eureka Springs, Gahr said, she stopped by the humane society thrift store and talked to thrift store manager Janet Chupp. Gahr said she offered to help with transporting animals to out-of-state shelters and foster homes.

"It ended up being more," Gahr said. "I'm really excited about that."

Fusaro said Gahr has experience in areas where Good Shepherd would like to improve, including out-of-state transfers and a foster home program. There are many shelters in other states where spaying and neutering animals is mandatory, Fusaro said, which creates a lot of open space at the shelters.

"Of course, we'll vet those shelters to make sure they have our same values," Fusaro said.

Gahr said it's important to her to work with other no-kill shelters. There's always a home for an animal in need, Gahr said, but it could be several states away. She said she oversaw the transport of 750 animals in Fort Smith earlier this year. The animals were taken to foster homes and shelters in places like Illinois, Minnesota and Canada, Gahr said.

"These dogs can get overlooked in our shelter," Gahr said, "and when they go to shelters in Chicago, they'll get adopted in three days. The average stay for a dog is three days in those shelters."

Gahr continued, "It's crazy how here our shelters are just packed and most shelters do have to euthanize for space. It was amazing to me that we don't have to do that. We can get this under control with humane education and moving the animals around a little bit."

Chicago is a great place to take animals, Gahr said.

"They're really open-minded about taking heartworm dogs and big dogs," Gahr said. "It really helps a lot."

It can be frustrating, Gahr said, to know how many animals need a home in Carroll County. She said Good Shepherd has a waiting list of animals surrendered by their owners, saying the shelter is completely full. That means the shelter can't take in animals found on the street, Gahr said.

"We don't have space," Gahr said, "so we want to get transports going so we can have space."

Having more foster homes would help with that problem, too.

"We want to expand our foster program. That makes the animals easier to adopt," Fusaro said, "because they're more social and it creates space at the shelter so we can take in more animals."

Gahr said the shelter will cover food and medical costs for the animals so long as someone takes them in until there's more space at the shelter. She kept around 250 animals in foster homes when she worked in Fort Smith, Gahr said. To have more foster homes in Carroll County, Gahr said, Good Shepherd needs to expand its volunteer base.

"We're hoping to get a big volunteer team together so we can be involved in the community," Gahr said. "We want to make sure the animals are seen so we can get homes for them."

So far, Gahr said, everything is going well.

"We've done quite a few adoptions on cats," Gahr said. "With the dogs, it's a little bit slower because most of them have been here for a really long time. Some of the dogs have been here for over two years."

Gahr added, "I'm just really excited to be in Eureka Springs. I know there's an amazing group of people here. When we do get a volunteer program up and running, the community will have the chance to get in and help."

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