She was a stray cat, born without eyes—and yet no less valuable in the eyes of the Humane Society of Genesee County (HSGC).
Helen came to us in the summer of 2018, and she had another surprise: Helen was pregnant. The HSGC gave her food, safety, medical attention and a foster home, where she has since given birth to kittens—born with eyes! They can see all the helpful people that their mother cannot.
Like Helen, many people who visit the HSGC never see all of the work that takes place 365 days a year. Caring and compassionate employees and volunteers work tirelessly to rescue and remove animals from dangerous situations and give them shelter until they are adopted. They help control the overpopulation of pets in Genesee County. They provide education and community service opportunities that benefit these animals.
At HSGC, the focus is always on the animals.
For nearly a century, the Humane Society of Genesee County (HSGC) has served as an advocate for homeless animals. You are a partner with us in this important endeavor.
I am proud to share with you our first-ever annual report. Inside these pages, you will find the stories of people like you who have stepped up to answer the call of animals in need. Sharing the HSGC financial information with you is important, and that is why we are including the breakdown of the annual budget and how funds are spent. You will also find stories and statistics in this report on the number of volunteers, how may cruelty complaints are handled, and the number of surgeries performed that help control the pet population in the county.
The majority of the operating funds for the HSGC are from donors like you. Thanks to you, we can provide an excellent environment to nurture these animals, giving them healthy food, medical attention, and a clean home for them until they are adopted. Our budget also allows for a professional animal cruelty investigator who works in partnership with local law enforcement to rescue animals when necessary. With your help, we can continue our mission of helping to control the pet population and providing education to the community. Without our donors, the HSGC would cease to exist.
Your ongoing support makes a significant difference. Thank you for your advocacy in this collective effort to help the homeless animals of Genesee County.
Jane Johnson, Board Chair
Humane Society of Genesee County
Seated left to right - Jonathan Burroughs, Dr. Cathy Blight, Jane Johnson, Norman Purdy, Deborah Cummings
Standing left to right - Mark Lippincott, Dr. John Snell, Carl Liepmann, Susan Tolbert, Debra Loader, Jeff Feurt, Donna Dodds Hamm, Leslie Toldo
Not pictured: Dr. Cheri Mys, Dr. Mark Plucer, Thomas Price, Brace Reid, David Roeser, Nicole Yambrick
Our mission is to provide shelter and adoption of companion animals, reduce over-population, extend humane education, prevent cruelty, and provide those services that promote the goals and policies of The Humane Society of Genesee County (HSGC).
The HSGC’s focus remains on the companion animals of Genesee County. We are committed to treating all animals and people with dignity and respect. We will provide the best possible humane treatment of animals in our care until we are able to locate their forever homes.
Many poignant, heartbreaking stories come through the doors of the HSGC Surrender Department. Sometimes an owner has passed away, or people are moving and they cannot take their pet. Occasionally, two families are blending and someone is allergic or the pet does not get along with the new children. Whatever reason for the surrender, it can be a tough transition for the animals who look with searching eyes for a familiar face, hoping to recognize someone from the home they once knew.
There is no cost for surrendering an animal. A donation is appreciated but not required.
Once an animal is admitted to the HSGC, it enjoys the compassionate care of Kristin Cole and her crew. Kristin is the Shelter Manager and a 23 year veteran of the HSGC. “I’m in charge of everything—what you see and what you don’t see,” she says, referring to the parts of the shelter where animals receive care and medical treatment before being put on public display.
“Some animals, when they come in, you can just tell they’re going to need a couple of days to chill out,” Kristin says. “You can see it in their eyes and body language and, in those cases, we hold them back for a few days before people get to see them.”
The shelter has the capacity to hold up to 180 animals. Kristin’s staff and volunteers work hard to provide the animals comfort in their cages. “We give them good food, soft bedding, warm blankets, and fun toys. We even have music playing because it’s very relaxing to them.”
The shelter is always looking for innovative ways to help the animals find their new homes. Kristin explains, “We added the cat atriums after I visited another shelter that had them. Not only do the cats enjoy the extra space but more of them are getting adopted after they are seen in the atriums. I think it’s because people can see how well they get along with the other cats.”
Kristin also notes that the comfort and care of the animals is dependent on financial donations. “They help us pay for vaccines, for puppy and kitten food, for cat litter—I mean, we go through cat litter like crazy. The donations keep our staff here and our lights on. The only way this place operates is through donations. Fortunately for the animals, this community is very generous.”
“I see some horrendous things.” HSGC Cruelty Investigator Dave Schmieder has stories
to tell. Some are heartbreaking but many more have happy endings, usually due to his
“I don’t feel like a hero. This is something that needs to be done, and I guess I’m the one to do it. My dad was a cop and I knew, at four or five years old, that I wanted to be a cop too.”
Dave fulfilled that dream, eventually retiring from the police force in 2011. Now, instead of protecting people, Dave rescues animals in need. “It’s different with the animals. They can’t defend themselves and they can’t tell you what’s wrong.”
Dave leaves nothing to chance. He responds to every call or complaint that comes into his office. “I’d rather go out on a hundred calls where I’m not needed than to miss the one I should’ve been there for.” In 2017, he went out on 389 calls.
As Genesee County’s only nationally certified Humane Animal Investigator, Dave tries to turn these tense situations into an opportunity for education instead of confrontation. “People get these animals and they don’t realize how much work it is, and their hearts are bigger than their pocketbooks sometimes. But they’ve got to provide water, food and shelter. Educating people is 98-percent of my job.”
The other two-percent of his job involves tragic stories: a dog so emaciated that Dave could see her ribs jutting out even while she was pregnant with four puppies; the time he had to remove 20 cats from a house; or the rescue of a dog forgotten in a garage and stuck in a small black crate, the bottom covered in urine and feces. About that case, Dave says, “When I got that dog out of the crate, it didn’t know how to walk on grass. When it tried, it started high-stepping because the grass felt so strange. I brought that dog back to the Humane Society with me because I knew our staff would find it an amazing home. They always do.”
Whether the animals are abandoned, abused or injured, Dave says he can always tell how happy they are to see a kind face or sniff a helping hand. “You can absolutely see it in their eyes. They light up. Their body language shows they’re comfortable with me and they feel good going with me. We’ll take good care of them.”
To that end, an onsite spay/neuter clinic was added in 2012. The expansion was named the Mr. & Mrs. Bernhard Stroh Wing, due to their family’s generous donation.
It is a fully equipped operating room where Dr. Mary Fisher, DVM performs surgery all day, two days a week. “I’m in there just doing surgery after surgery, from morning until we’re done,” says Dr. Fisher. She usually does 10 to 15 procedures in a day, but has done as many as 23 in one day.
She is motivated by one thing. “Every cat I spay, I just keep thinking, ‘I just prevented a dozen more cats that would be loose in our community.’”
Before the addition of the clinic, new pet owners were trusted to get their pets “fixed,” but it was virtually impossible to enforce. Dr. Fisher explains, “People would leave us a deposit and get a voucher to take to their vet. The doctor was supposed to do the surgery and sign the voucher. Then the owners could return it and get back their deposit. Instead, those same people came to our door, months later, with a box of new puppies or kittens. They didn’t followed through.”
Now, thanks to the spay/neuter clinic, no animal leaves the shelter without the surgery.
“People are always shocked by how fast the puppies and kittens wake up after their operations,” says Dr. Fisher. “Their eyes pop open and they’re up and on the move, wrestling in their cages and gobbling food. They’re ready for their next adventure, their new home.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Fisher has an impressive pet population of her own. “I have five cats and six dogs, four of them from here,” she says. “What can I say? The best dogs come from here.”
“Sometimes I think the dog chooses you, instead of the other way around, and I definitely think Fynn chose us,” says Megan Kennedy who, along with her husband David, gave a home to a very special dog.
Fynn is a mixed breed, who had come to the HSGC as a stray with a severe disability. “Her hips and legs weren’t shaped right, and that gave her a hunched curve in her spine. It made her hobble like a baby deer taking its first steps,” explains Megan.
At the HSGC, Fynn received medical care, including surgery to improve her walk. Yet, she still struggled with every step and needed a patient, loving family to accommodate her special needs. That’s when Megan and David walked in. They had seen a photo of Fynn online and thought she looked “cute” but then they held her, and it was love at first sight. Megan says, “She crawled right into my lap and laid her head on my shoulder. I said, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to get this dog.’”
Fynn’s disability did not discourage David and Megan. “Actually, I think it made us want her more because we knew we could give her the home and care she needed.” And they have done just that. Through specialized training, numerous vet visits and physical therapy, the Kennedys have given Fynn a new “leash” on life.
“She’s doesn’t let her disability get in her way now. She’s become a really fast runner,” says Megan, who says they can tell Fynn is thankful by the look in her eyes. “She looks at us like she’s thinking, ‘I found my home. I’m happy here.’ And we couldn’t imagine life without her.”
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but what about an old cat? Maggie Gregg says older feline friends can often be transformed by lots of love and companionship. She would know. Maggie and her husband David have adopted three older cats from the HSGC: “First is our calico queen named Geminny who is nine,” explains Maggie. “Then our sweet little gray-and-white girl Gracee, age ten, and our cool little dark prince Hamlet—we call him ‘Hammy’—who is also ten.”
Maggie is a Master Gardener and longtime volunteer, who works with 20 others to maintain the landscaping that surrounds the HSGC. “Years ago, when I began working outside the place, I said I would never go inside to see the animals because I was afraid I would start adopting everybody. So for three or four years, I never went in” Maggie says. Then her husband started volunteering too, and she reluctantly went in to help him take care of the animals.
“They had the most beautiful cats in there. And I couldn’t believe the selection—any kind of cat you could ever want. All kinds of eyes, different colored tails, all types of feet,” says Maggie.
Why adopt the older cats? “Whenever people find out the Humane Society has cute little kittens, the people come rushing in to get them. But the older cats have to wait longer to get adopted,” Maggie explains. “So I like to help those ‘scaredy cats’ and the oldies who hide under their blankets when the people come.”
Maggie says she is done adopting for now. “Two’s company and three’s a crowd—and I like this crowd the way it is right now,” she says. However, Maggie still finds great purpose in the gardens and landscaping around the HSGC. “One of the reasons we volunteers like to work in the gardens is that, if the place looks beautiful and inviting, more people will want to come and visit. And the more that visit, the more animals will get adopted. So, we hope our work is contributing to the adoption of the animals. That’s what matters most.”
The answer can be found in a new partnership between the HSGC and Family Promise, a national program which provides a safety net for homeless families while they work to find a new place to live. In Genesee County, a Family Promise network of 14 churches have volunteered to house and feed the homeless families for months as they get their lives back on track.
“It’s not for the chronically homeless. It’s for people who have had some kind of hardship. They’ve lost their job or have a medical problem. But they are working hard to get back their independence,” explains Dr. John Snell. He and his wife Mary have helped care for the families through St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Flint.
Dr. Snell is also a retired veterinarian and member of the HSGC Advisory Board. “The bond people have with their pets is amazing,” he says. “So, it’s another heart-breaking stress on a homeless family to worry what will happen to their pets. That’s why our Humane Society has volunteered to take in their animals and care for them for as long as it takes these families to get back on their feet.”
For a family pet to participate in the program, the HSGC must be allowed to vaccinate the animal and spay or neuter it (provided it has not already had the surgery). The pet must also display a good temperament. No vicious or dangerous behavior. Then, during the animal’s stay at the HSGC, family members are encouraged to visit as often as possible.
Dr. Snell can personally attest to the benefits of working with the wonderful Family Promise program. “When you get eyeball to eyeball with a homeless person, you realize they’re just like you and me. They’ve just had a bad experience. So it is rewarding to help them and very meaningful to be involved.”
HSGC relies on a caring, committed community of volunteers to help the homeless animals. Whether they are walking, playing, feeding or even fostering the animals, the HSGC volunteers keep an eye on them 365 days a year. Even the landscaping around the building is maintained by volunteers, who sometimes work in partnership with Master Gardening students from local universities.
Dedicated volunteers also make special programs possible. For instance, this summer, Kettering University students devoted a day to building dog houses. Cruelty Investigator Dave Schmeider then delivers the dog houses, with straw and a bag of dog food, to owners who keep their pets outside without shelter. So far this year, Dave has delivered over 50 dog houses, and he says there is always a demand for more.
Don’t try talking to Muriel Lile while dogs are around. She won’t hear you. She’s too busy waving “hello” to a bouncy puppy playing in the distance or she’s bending down to nuzzle the muzzle of a nearby dog. Muriel says, “I think animals add so much to our lives. We could learn a lot from them about how to behave. We owe them a debt, and the only way to repay it is to do something that keeps them safe and happy.”
For that reason, Muriel generously donated $25,000 to make the new HSGC dog park possible. Her donation was matched with another $23,600 raised at the Paws on Parade fundraiser. The funds were combined to construct a safe and spacious new park, located directly behind the HSGC building.
The park includes a covered pavilion, a pond, a tunnel, agility ramps and lots of room to run. “I just thought there should be a place where dogs can run and be who they are,“ says Muriel.
She is a lifelong Flint resident who says animals—especially dogs--are her “cup of tea.” That’s why she made such a large donation. “I know for many people it’s a lot of money, and it is to me as well. But I wanted to do something permanent for the dogs. Something that would last forever.”
The new park also gives Muriel a place to visit where she can surround herself with dogs. She says, “I love the looks dogs give us. If you could put words to those looks, you’d hear some marvelous things.”
Muriel comes from a family of animal lovers who have long been supporters of the Humane Society, and she feels certain her parents would approve of her generous donation. “I can just hear my mom and dad saying, ‘Well done, honey.’”
The Humane Society of Genesee County traces its beginning to 1926 and the efforts of Jonathon E. Burroughs, a respected member of the Flint community. Mr. Burroughs and his colleagues shared a concern for animals which translated into them constructing a shelter without walls, where homeless animals were cared for by volunteers.
For many years, animals in need were humanely cared for in temporary shelters, but then personal interest, energy and philanthropy led to the purchase of the first HSGC building in 1961. Continued demand for the HSGC programs created the need for the facility to expand further in 1968. Ultimately, in 1993, it became necessary to occupy a new and modern facility, which is the current HSGC home.
Today, the HSGC carries forth the vision of Mr. Burroughs through expanded work in caring for homeless animals, facilitating adoptions, humanely controlling the pet population, and investigating complaints of animal cruelty. This work is accomplished through outstanding collaborations and partnerships with individuals and organizations throughout Genesee County.
To be a compassionate and respected service organization which represents the voice of the animals. Recognizing the sanctity of life is the cornerstone of our mission. We will continually strive to educate the public about over-population with the goal of finding a permanent and loving home for every homeless and unwanted pet.
The Humane Society of Genesee County’s focus remains on the companion animals (dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens) of Genesee County.