Stop gap: City helps humane society during financial crisis

HARLINGEN — The city is giving the Harlingen Humane Society a big helping hand.

That means the facility won’t have to shut down anytime soon.

But it doesn’t mark the end of the shelter’s financial woes.

City commissioners have approved a $25,000 payment to help the humane society through the end of the fiscal year, which closes in September.

Mayor Chris Boswell said city commissioners will consider increasing the city’s annual contribution, which already is $131,505.

“We’ll consider that,” Boswell said yesterday. “We may in the future, at budget time, look at increasing their contract.”

The humane society plans to request a $50,000 increase when it meets with city officials on May 15, President Pat Turman-White said.

“The $25,000 is a wonderful beginning but we have a long way to go,” Turman-White said.

Last week, Turman-White said the organization, which operates on a $1 million annual budget, was “broke.”

“We are literally one pay period away from having to shut down the facility,” she wrote Serna in an April 3 letter.

But that is the financial nature of nonprofit organizations largely dependent on private donations, she said.

“The nature of the business is we’re always a month away from closing because the only guaranteed money in our budget is what we get from the city of Harlingen,” she said. “Donations are contingent on the generosity of people, which we can’t always depend on.”

But the humane society’s recent financial condition has led to an outpouring of private donations.

Since last week, private donations have climbed to about $10,000, Turman-White said.

Bloomers Flowers and Gifts launched a challenge on Facebook, calling out to Cita’s Boutique to match its $50 donation.

So far, the challenge has spurred local businesses to raise about $1,000, said Lisa Human, the shop’s manager.

“We’re excited about it,” she said. “We wanted to do something to get the community involved. We’re huge animal lovers. We’re always picking up stray dogs and bringing them to the shop to try to find their owners.”

On Facebook, 17-year-old Maddy Garza’s Go Fund Me account has raised more than $2,400.

But Turman-White urged area residents to continue to donate to the organization after its financial situation improves.

“We need people to be aware this is an ongoing crisis for us,” she said.

The financial crisis has led the humane society to cut back on key programs such as spay and neutering services, Turman-White said.

Turman-White said an estimated 50 percent of the humane society’s subsidized spay and neutering services are performed on dogs and cats from outside Harlingen.

But neighboring cities have refused to help share costs.

Now, the agency cannot afford to continue to subsidize costs for residents outside Harlingen, she said.

So the agency has been forced to increase costs of spay and neutering services for dogs and cats from outside Harlingen, Turman-White said.

The program offering subsidized spay and neutering services has dramatically slashed the number of stray dogs and cats euthanized at the shelter.

In 2007, the humane society euthanized 8,100 dogs and cats.

Last year, that number dropped to 5,041.

“I have a goal — to stop euthanizing healthy, adoptable animals,” Turman-White said.

Who funds the Harlingen Humane Society?

Private donations average $150,000 a year

50 percent from Harlingen

45 percent from surrounding cities

5 percent from former area residents and Winter Texans