Camano Island animal shelter’s money running out

CAMANO ISLAND — A calico cat sleeps atop a computer monitor. A litter of kittens nestle in their bedding. Puppies frolic in a nearby pen.

Amid the peacefulness of the Camano Animal Shelter, the only sign of trouble is the yellow reader-board outside, asking passersby to donate cat litter and dog food.

Camano Island’s only animal shelter is in danger of running out of money.

Shelter officials estimate the $11,000 in their bank account will last through June, at which point they will have to begin spending their reserve funds to make ends meet.

The shelter is expected to fall about $25,000 short of meeting this year’s $130,000 projected budget, and that accounts for $20,000 in anticipated fundraising revenue.

“We’re just thinking we’re going to make it,” shelter manager Lyn­ette Lawson said. “We’re staying really positive.”

The shelter, at the intersection of N. East Camano Drive and Can Ku Road, is staffed by two part-time managers and four part-time employees. Volunteers socialize with the animals and help with their medical inspections, while other volunteers wash and clean the building on a daily basis, keeping the shelter nearly free of animal odors.

At the moment, shelter officials are not considering shutting down.

However, if the shelter were to close, then the nearest available shelters for Camano Island residents would be far away on Whidbey Island.

In Snohomish County, which is closest, animals are taken to Everett Animal Shelter. But it does not generally accept any from outside the county. Skagit County shelters charge out-of-county fees. And the private, nonprofit Northwest Organization for Animal Help outside of Stanwood only accepts animals from shelters, not directly from people.

“I’m just hoping the public is aware of the great things that are going on, and they realize that we need support, and that eventually maybe we can get more (money) from the county,” shelter treasurer Martha Huyler said.

The shelter’s revenues have decreased while costs have increased for things such as supplies, medical treatment and staffing.

Last year, the Camano Animal Shelter Association increased staffing requirements at the shelter to make sure nobody is ever there alone. The shelter’s staff is budgeted to be paid a combined $76,000 this year.

Also, shelter officials are beginning to see more cats and kittens coming into the shelter. Of the 486 animals brought to the shelter in 2007, roughly 57 percent — more than 270 — were cats. The shelter pays $15 for each adult cat to be tested for feline leukemia. If kittens arrive without their mother, each kitten must be tested to protect other cats at the shelter.

The shelter is also treating more illnesses in cats and kittens, rather than euthanizing them. Vet bills almost double during the kitten season, between spring and summer, Lawson said.

Meanwhile, many longtime members have left the committee that’s in charge of organizing shelter fundraisers.

In addition to needing funding for this year, the shelter also needs money to get through early 2009.

Island County Commissioner John Dean, whose district includes Camano Island, said the county is unlikely to have much extra money to give to the shelter.

“It’s a hard one,” Dean said. “The animals are near and dear to everyone’s heart, but when you don’t have money, you spend it on people first or you spend it on animals first.”

The shelter might start limiting its hours in order to cut costs, but that would cut into profits gained when animals are adopted out, Huyler said.

She’s hoping someone, or several people, come forward to help.

“It’s a nice shelter, it’s nice to walk into,” Huyler said. “It’s serving a need that the county does not see.”

Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or spesznecker@heraldnet.com.

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