By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Having found loving homes for more than 57,000 animals since the early ‘90s, Pets & People Humane Society is mulling its options after learning it must find a new home.
Pets & People officials have been notified by the City of Yukon that the humane society must vacate the former City animal shelter by Dec. 31. The building will be demolished.
The City of Yukon’s Animal Control department in late January opened a new animal shelter at 701 Inla after sharing space with Pets & People for more than 20 years.
“We’re now looking at our options,” Pets & People executive director Amy Young said. “Our board has started discussions on what next steps we should take moving forward.
“We have enjoyed our partnership with the City of Yukon … we have weathered challenges together and worked together to help animals and humans thrive together in our community.”
Pets & People – a no-kill organization incorporated in 1994 – has rescued more 57,000 cats and dogs and placed them in new homes. Through June 7, the organization adopted out 464 pets in 2020.
Pets & People had planned to kick off a capital campaign on April 1 to build a 4,200 square foot rescue center on the dog park property it owns west of the shelter. However, efforts to raise the $600,000 needed for the project stalled due to the economic downtown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Donations and volunteer support dropped dramatically, increasing supply and personnel costs.
Pets & People’s thrift store – which typically generates $6,000 per month of income for the shelter – also was forced to close for nine weeks as part of the shutdown.
Pets & People had been approved for a $150,000 matching grant from the Kirkpatrick Foundation as they set their sights on building the rescue center. The organization is required to obtain other large gifts as part of the process.
As a non-profit, the humane society survives solely on donations.
“It will take a while to recover from the pandemic,” Young said. “Philanthropic giving has bottomed out … there is not a capital campaign in Oklahoma that thrived during the pandemic.”
Pets & People tackled this challenge with “tenacity, ingenuity and grace,” the executive director noted.
While other animal rescues shut their doors, Pets & People adjusted to the COVID crisis and started offering curbside adoptions with great success – 232 dogs and cats from March 23 to June 7.
“We focused on keeping our doors open and ensuring the animals in our care thrived,” Young said. “We felt we had a responsibility to the animals in need in Yukon, Canadian County and in Oklahoma to stay open to help with the animal crisis that happened due to COVID-19.”
LOOKING AT OPTIONS
Several options are on the table as Pets & People makes plans to leave the City of Yukon space by year end.
One possible solution – which could be temporary – is to lease existing property in Yukon or the surrounding area for a new adoption center and office.
Another is to build a smaller building than what had been initially planned – perhaps half the amount.
The local humane society could still build on part of the three-acre dog park site, but it would take longer than six months to raise funds and construct a permanent facility.
Another possibility is for Pets & People to become a foster-based organization while helping pet supply stores with more adoptions.
Meanwhile, Pets and People is in the process of placing dogs and cats in its care in animal sanctuaries, permanent homes or with foster families.
Young noted Pets & People has provided “great support” to the City of Yukon “over the years” – not only with shelter capacity but by covering all vetting and supply costs with the City’s new animal control facility. She pointed out a significant portion of the old shelter was paid for by Pets & People.
Many out-of-town adopters stop to shop and eat in Yukon before or after adopting from Pets & People, Young noted.
“We know that we bring people to Yukon and we are the beacon of lights for so many animals that are in kill shelters all over western Oklahoma,” she said. “From as close as El Reno to as far as Hollis and Woodward, Pets & People is the organization that so many people reach out to help with a really adoptable pet is out of time.”
This marks the 30th year since Pets & People began, according to founding member Jody Harlan.
It started in February 1990 as a pet therapy program, organized by Yukon veterinarian James Posey, to visit residents of local long-term care centers.