The shelter, located on Highway 80, has been operational for years, serving Perry, Breathitt, Letcher and Knott County. But a loss in funding could spell disaster for the shelter, which among its services takes in stray animals and offers discounts for spaying a neutering pets.
The shelter receives $15,000 in funding from each county and $5,000 from the City of Hazard which provides a monetary base on which to fund its services, but much needed supplemental income is made through a bingo game held each week in Hazard, and it's that supplemental income that is declining.
"All together we have $65,000 (from the counties) to run the shelter, and that is why bingo is so vitally important," said Midge Bowling, chairperson on the shelter's board of directors.
Bowling noted that the bingo games are declining due to competition from other games in Breathitt and Knott Counties. Where once players from those two counties would travel to Hazard to participate, they now have options closer to home, and attendance at games that benefit the animal shelter has decreased as a result.
A bulk of the money raised from bingo games goes toward the neutering and spaying program. Pet owners can acquire a certificate that pays a portion of the procedure's cost with participating area veterinarians. This is a program Bowling says is important because it gives people an incentive to have their pet spayed or neutered, which in turn can keep the population of unwanted pets from rising.
"It’s very, very important that you spay or neuter your cat or dog," she said.
But not all of these funds raised from the bingo games goes toward this program. When money is needed in the general fund, it can also come from these funds. Bowling said the shelter has purchased a new truck, a new incinerator and added runs to the property to allow the shelter to house animals for a longer period of time, which could increase the chances that they are adopted.
Bowling said the board is also working on the formation of a spay clinic, which would utilize the services of veterinarians who would work all day spaying and neutering pets, sometimes working on 60 or 70 animals per day for a set fee. Utilizing the certificate offered by the shelter could decrease the cost even further.
But the shelter, like any other public facility, still has its own monthly bills, such as insurance, utilities and the upkeep of the shelter itself. Without the supplemental income from these bingo games, Bowling said she fears the shelter could cease operations without another income source. The problem is compounded because the shelter does not qualify for grants, she noted, because they do not own the property on which the shelter operates.
According to Tom Caudill, who works at the shelter each day, approximately 7,600 animals are taken into the shelter each year from those four counties.