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Posted on Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

2012 year of record adoptions for Humane Society of Huron Valley

By Amy Biolchini

Eager and curious, Kensy sniffed the ground and pulled her handler Mike Barkman of Ann Arbor toward the woods at the Humane Society of Huron Valley in Superior Township.

A terrier and pit bull mix, Kensy, at the age of 4, has had almost as many owners.

Under the careful guidance of the Humane Society staff, Kensy’s sweet, intelligent character will help her find a permanent place to live.

HSHV had a record number of adoptions in 2012: 3,783 homeless and abused animals found homes -- about 152 more than last year -- and 857 were reunited with their families.

The Humane Society is celebrating its adoption success after a nearly rocky start to 2012, when Washtenaw County attempted to cut its $500,000 in annual contract funding for services to the HSHV in half.

Negotiations between the two parties has continued for the past year, and a new four-year contract is on the eve of being signed.

Within the next several years, the new contract would cover the actual operations costs the humane society says it incurs each year for caring for animals under the contract it has with the county.

The contract

Washtenaw County is mandated to provide animal control services by state law, which include housing stray dogs and dogs seized during cruelty investigations. In 2012, 415 reports of animal abuse and neglect were investigated.

Under the contract with the county, HSHV houses and cares for stray animals in the county, and any animals brought to the organization by animal control officers, law enforcement and HSHV’s cruelty investigators and emergency rescue team.

“We are committed to our partnership with the county because we consider it a win-win for taxpayers and our community’s homeless and abused animals,” said Tanya Hilgendorf, executive director of the HSHV. “We have very strong outcomes, a highly effective service delivery system, and are a national model for best practices in animal care and animal cruelty investigations. These are outcomes this community has grown to expect.”


Humane Society of Huron Valley Executive Director Tanya Hilgendorf holds a calico cat as she poses for a photo at the shelter on Friday.

Melanie Maxwell |

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners has been debating for the past year if it should care for more than dogs -- as is the only requirement under the Dog Law of 1919, and how much it should be paying to the HSHV for the services it gets in return.

The humane society sides on behalf on the way state animal cruelty laws are written to include "all vertebrae."

The initial proposal to cut the county funding in half did not sit well with the HSHV, and both parties settled on a $415,000 amount for 2012.

In 2012, the HSHV had $66,000 more in expenditures than it had in revenue.

“We anticipated a loss because of a reduction in the county contract in 2012 and made special efforts to increase our fundraising and grants to fill in the gap, but did not completely succeed,” Hilgendorf said.

An analysis conducted by the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office in conjunction with the HSHV this summer found that the services HSHV provided per the contract it has with the county total a direct cost amount of $591,622 in 2012.

Adding in the facilities costs, technology and administrative overhead into that would equal a total housing cost of $715,893 in 2012, according to the analysis.

The analysis also found that cruelty investigations cost about $235,900 in 2012, and that about $1 million in in-kind services were being provided that would bring the total value of the services the HSHV was providing to the county under the terms of its contract to $2,053,393.

After an evaluation throughout last summer, the commissioners decided late in 2012 to allow county Administrator Verna McDaniel to execute a new contract with HSHV for an amount of no more than $500,000.

McDaniel said she plans to pursue a $550,000 contract, about $460,000 of which will be paid for by the county. The remaining $90,000 will be paid for by select other municipalities in the county, McDaniel said, but those agreements are still pending.

A new four-year contract, which McDaniel initially said would be signed by early January, has yet to be inked.

"Our goal is by next year at least be covering all of our hard costs through the terms of the contract," Hilgendorf said.

The animals

HSHV is the only shelter in Washtenaw County. A total of 5,615 pets came in to the HSHV in 2012.

It has one of the highest save rates out of any shelter in Michigan at 85 percent, according to the HSHV.

The other 15 percent are animals that come in so sick or injured that they can’t be saved and have to be humanely euthanized, said Deb Kern, marketing director for HSHV.

For healthy and treatable animals, HSHV says it has a placement rate of 99 percent.

Part of HSHV’s adoption success is due to a number of targeted programs it employs.

From a free barn cat program that helps find placements for feral cats, to matching senior animals with senior citizens, to discounted adoptions for veterans, the humane society is able to make sure the right animals end up in the right homes.

HSHV helped 1,099 cats through its feral cat program last year, and completed 6,144 spay and neuter surgeries.

The average length of stay for cats is about one month at the shelter.

For dogs, it’s about 16 days. Pit bulls and pit bull mixes take a little longer to find homes for -- about an average of 36 days, Kern said.

Kittens and puppies are adopted so quickly that they “fly out” of the shelter, Kern said.

“Some animals never make it to the website,” Kern said.

During the winter months, fewer to no puppies or kittens are at the shelter. Kern said many people looking for a young animal to adopt will turn elsewhere to find a pet to take home -- including pet stores.

Kern said the puppies and young dogs brought to the HSHV through PetSmart’s Rescue Waggin' each month helps combat that problem.

PetSmart charities pay for the transport of the puppies from points south, where the warmer weather proliferates the puppy production. If they were to stay in shelters in southern states, they would likely be euthanized, Kern said.

The HSHV pays for those animals once they arrive at their shelter, and the number of dogs adopted from the Rescue Waggin’ count toward the total number of animals the shelter adopted out.


As a non-profit, the HSHV relies heavily on donations and volunteer hours to make its operations work.

Though HSHV knew it would be likely operating at a loss for 2012, it started the year with $11.5 million in unrestricted assets.

Of the $4,679,683 in revenue the HSHV brought in during 2012, $1,512,469 of that was of individual and business contributions, $300,777 from special events, $310,053 from bequests and $118,321 from grants and foundations.

HSHV spends about 86 percent of its funds on programs and services. Seven percent is spent on development, and 7 percent is spent on management.

The HSHV agreed to the decreased compensation in the 2012 contract.


Courtesy of HSHV

However, with less of a contribution from Washtenaw County for contracted services in 2012, more of the donations are going to general operations than they are for services, Hilgendorf said.

“Donor money should be used for important mission-related services and critical prevention services, like spay-neutering and humane education,” Hilgendorf said. “In the end, we do the animals, the community and our organization a disservice when we allow ourselves to be underpaid.”

HSHV also has contracts with the municipalities of Plymouth and Canton to house their stray animals, which amounted to $1,972 and $47,810 in income for 2012, respectively.

Those contracts don’t cover housing animals for abuse or neglect cases, cruelty investigations or for animals ordered out of a home by the court. HSHV cared for 46 stray animals from Plymouth and 112 stray animals from Canton in 2012.


Volunteers help with a number of operations throughout the HSHV, like cleaning cages, walking dogs, filing records in the veterinary clinic and working charity events.

About 820 volunteers contributed 62,993 hours of service to HSHV in 2012 -- which is the equivalent of 30 full-time employees. They’re a main reason that the organization is able to be successful.

Barkman, who works with Kensy, is one such volunteer. About a year ago, he started walking dogs for two to three hours in the morning several days a week. It’s a busy task - he handles between five to eight dogs in any kind of weather. Each dog at the shelter gets time outside twice a day.

Why does he do it?

“My love for animals,” Barkman said.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


buvda fray

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 12:44 a.m.

Thankfully HSHV staff can tell by looking at dogs which ones are OK to sell to families in our community. We can all rest assured that this headline from over the weekend will never happen here! We are smitten with those little puppy dog eyes!!!


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 9:13 a.m.

I have 3 rescues (1 more than I expected to keep) and I dread the day old age catches up with them. The only comforting thought is that I know as soon as I'm ready to offer another forever home to a homeless furball, I will have no problem finding a suitable companion here!


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.

We are so blessed with the HSHV! I volunteer with Friends of Wildlife and we rehabilitate orphaned and injured wildlife. The HSHV is also a tremendous help to us in the work that we do. Congratulations HSHV on a successful year and thank you!

Brighton mom

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 2:56 p.m.

My husband and I adopted a dog from HSHV 13 years ago. Within a year of having her she got sick and we spent $5000 getting her healthy. It was the best money we ever spent! She was our first baby and I couldn't imagine our lives without her. She is 14 years old now and even though she moves a little slower she is still our "puppy". We will be forever grateful for the gift we were given. Rescue dogs are the best and one day- hopefully years from now- we will go back to HSHV and find another "baby" to add to our family.

Brighton mom

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 5:59 p.m.

I want to clarify. Our dog got sick from a bad reaction to a medicine she was on because she ate animal poop that had some kind of worm in it. I don't want anyone to think the HSHV adopted out a sick dog.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

Over the years we have had several mixed breed dogs from HSHV. All were adopted as adults; all but one (sadly, cancer) lived very long lives and gave us much more than we gave them. Mixed breeds have thoroughbred hearts.

Sarah Rigg

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

Nice going HSHV! As someone who has brought an animal to HSHV, I can attest that they do a great job on the intake side of things as well. Last fall, my husband and I found a stray or abandoned kitten and took it to HSHV. We would have kept him but we already have two cats (both adopted from situations where the owners couldn't keep them) and didn't feel we could care for more. HSHV made the process of dropping the poor thing off quite easy and after he was treated for a junky eye and a respiratory infection, he was snapped up for adoption within a day or two of his picture going up on the site. They're also happy to have you call and check in on an animal you bring in to HSHV, which was reassuring.

Terry Star21

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 2:13 a.m.

What a great story. I am so proud to live in an area where homeless pets are treating like humans, because for everyone that has owned one, you know they are (and try telling your pet they are not human - ha !). The volunteers (820) blew my mind, and the policy of saving animals from death (I wish we had means for even the sickest) is very impressive. I had a twelve year old German Shepard/Wolf that became very ill and the Vet wanted to put him down. I cried, and thought this poor guy only has one chance at life, and as long as he is not in pain, I'll carry him around at times when needed. He would lay and watch TV with me and lick my face - and it was then I realized, he wanted to live if given the chance. He lived another three and half years, and although it broke my heart when he passed, I'm so happy for my decision. Thank you Amy, Tanya, all the workers, the volunteers, the donators - and especially all my neighbor friends who adopted these 'near human' pets. Salute !


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 1:47 a.m.

That is awesome, keep up the good work.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 8 p.m.

@ Constance Colthorp Amrine, re Kindergarten field trips: I wish more schools would do these. We used to live side-by-side with our animals, but these days there are more and more people who are afraid of animals because of the infrequency of any interactions. These "crash-course" field trips do a lot to dispel unwarranted anxiety. Often, when you take the time to research "that dog scared my kids" stories, you find that there was nothing negative about the interaction except for the kids' and parents' reactions, which were born purely of unfamiliarity. This is yet another area in which HSHV does great service to the community.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 5:57 p.m.

HB11 ----I just responded to this question----read the post and it explains---we do not import pit bulls---we don't need too--Washtenaw County is overfilled with them---all because of overbreeding!!! The article also throughly explained that we have an agreement with Pet Smart at no cost!

Little Patience

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

While neither of our rescued dogs are from HSHV, our family fully supports adopting vs. breeders/pet stores. Save a life, adopt a pet!

Constance Colthorp Amrine

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 5:03 p.m.

My daughter's Kindergarten class had a field trip to HSHV and it was OUTSTANDING. It was well organized, and they worked extremely well with children. They explained how to interact with animals, and what you might expect from animal behavior and why. There was a tour, a story, a craft a snack, and the education staff (Karen and Alex) and the other tour guides were just fantastic. I highly recommend this as a field trip. It's great to help children learn how to relate to animals, and helpful to raise awareness about these pets who are looking for a forever family.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 1:56 a.m.

I've walked through HSHV numerous times with my little boys when we needed something to do. It was a great experience! My kids especially love tossing the kibble treats to the dogs, and I'm sure it helps dogs associate kids with good things...


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 7:20 p.m.

I saw that. Wow, what an experience. They have to do more of these.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

HV Humane Society is a wonderful place - I've adopted several cats from them over the years. And by the way, you can bring your pets there for their annual checkups - all the fees go toward upkeep of the facility. We are very fortunate to have such a caring place for animals!

Ann English

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 12:06 a.m.

I expect that the puppies and dogs adopted from there to have lower rates of heartworm than other dogs. Mosquitoes transmit it; it isn't transmitted to hunting breeds through dead animals they find. Other parasites get transmitted that way.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

We got our dog from the HSHV, and wouldn't think of looking anywhere else. Humane Societies in general are excellent entities, and the HSHV is second to none, in my book, and we are happy and proud to support it. I don't always agree with some of their policies, like TNR, which I feel is misguided, but I understand how it fits perfectly with their basic tenets and policies. Go HSHV!


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

HB11----The dogs brought to the Humane Society on the Rescue Wagon are a variety of breeds---they are small dogs or puppies. I have been working at HSHV a long time and have never seen a pit bull or pit bull mix on any of these deliveries. The pits we get in the shelter are from Washtenaw County---people are over breeding, not spaying/neutering, using them for fighting and then getting rid of them when they are not useful anymore, and abusing them. Through no fault of their own they are are given the social stigma of vicious dogs. We are fortunate to have highly educated, caring, loving individual/families who come to HSHV specifically for a pit bull. Thinker----HSHV is a very responsible organization---we do not let our dogs run loose terrorizing anyone. It is a very controlled environment where each and every dog is respected and loved until they find their forever home. The dogs walkers who volunteer their valuable time to us are not terrorized when they come here. All are trained how to walk the dogs and many have been here for years---where would you even get an idea that anyone is terrorized. Why don't you come out and volunteer your time walking our dogs--I know it would change your mind.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 7:06 p.m.

Very well said, kay.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:44 p.m.

What a great story and an awesome organization! Other shelters like Michigan Humane Society should take a lesson from the HSHV staff & board, instead of continuing their killing ways. We are lucky to have an organization like this in our community. Thanks to the staff & volunteers (that is a crazy number of volunteers to have!). Wake up Verna and pay them for the services they provide us!

Lizzy Alfs

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

I was surprised to read this: "For healthy and treatable animals, HSHV says it has a placement rate of 99 percent." And the days the animals stay at the shelter is much lower than I would have expected. Amy: any idea how that compares to other humane societies?


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 7:19 p.m.

ASPCa and HSUSA have a lot of this stuff on line. Especially need people to sign bills to make our reps more aware of the laws we want cracked down on. Keep on signing folks.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 5 p.m.

There's a report filed with the state each year. Here's 2011's There's some upsetting reading in it. For example, the Macomb County Animal Shelter, the Saginaw County Animal Shelter, and the Michigan Humane Society all euthanized around 68% of their intake - combined that was over 25,000 animals. I don't want to pass judgment on those organizations, because I don't know their circumstances. However, looking at those numbers, it becomes pretty clear that HSHV is doing something right.

A A Resident

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

Please please please don't support the breeding of more animals by buying one that came from a breeder. There is no shortage of cats and dogs, just a shortage of good homes.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 2:56 p.m.

Or there is a raid on the farm. Minnesota is one of the largest puppy mill breeders in the nation. Kind of scary if you ask me. Please adopt responsibly.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 12:58 p.m.

@tdw, Breeders go out of business and they no longer breed the animals. The pets that do not get sold could go to a Humane Society that will spay or neuter the animal


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 7:50 p.m.

I get your drift but what happens to the breeders pets if no one buys them ?


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 7:17 p.m.

Agreed. Also, do not do puppy mills nor buy on line. Congress is in the middle of cutting a lot of the internet loopholes that are causing a lot of stress on these poor animals. Minnesota just watered down a bill that would have made puppy mill owners more responsible for what they do. Their congress got bought. Sad. Michigan is also doing some puppy mill work. Been doing some on line bill signing. HSVS? Rocks.

A A Resident

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

PS Think of it this way: Huron Valley may do well at placing animals, but that's atypical. When you purchase a breeder-sourced pet, you are basically sentencing some homeless pet to death.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

How does animal control work on controlling the barking from all these adoptions? When they all get going in a neighborhood, it is very disruptive! Also, when dogs are let loose to do their business and allowed to run loose, terrorizing walkers and other dog walkers?


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 1:48 a.m.

@johnnya2-There used to be a police officer in A2 called an "animal control officer", who would deal with chronically barking dogs, dog packs etc. There is no longer someone whom you can call in the police dept who does that. Yes, it definitely is the responsibility of the dog owner, but we all know that there are plenty of lackadaisical or irresponsible dog owners.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

I think the HVHS follows the same thought patterns as other rescue groups. Like fire departments, for example. Before firefighters run into a burning building to rescue children, they consider the fact that when children are allowed to run loose, they're a nuisance, and they can knock people over. So they think it through carefully: rescue them or just walk away? Same thing for when there's one of those really BIG fires? Should they bring in enough firetrucks to put the fire out, or should they consider the fact that firetrucks are really, really noisy....? I take it your moniker is meant to be ironic.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

@Thinker, What does animal control have to do with ANYTHING you mentioned? These are dog owner responsibilities. IF you truly have these problems, then do what you would do if your neighbors had children doing he same things. CALL THE POLICE. Yes dogs bark, and guess what, children scream and make loud noises when they play outdoors, Babies might even cry. Cars make loud noises as well. If you want it to be quiet, go live in a place devoid of humans and animals and you can have it.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

@Y- I like dogs and cats as much as anyone, but cannot own one because of allergies. I have watched the behavior that I have described, in our neighborhood, and it shows that some owners don't care for their pets, and probably should not own one. And they certainly don't care for humans.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 10:19 p.m.

I am amazed at all the negative votes! I can only deduce that dog owners LIKE their dogs to bark and disrupt other peoples lives, leave their poop in other peoples yards, and like their dogs to terrorize bike riders, dog walkers and their LEASHED dogs and joggers. Amazing that the HUMAN race has sunk so low!


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:19 p.m.

Owners who let their dogs loose need to be reminded that is irresponsible, dangerous and against the law. It's amazing how people can rationalize that their dog would never scare anyone. Unless you live in an apartment, a fenced yard should be required for dog ownership.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

Try earplugs!


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

We have three dogs and they all came from HSHV. All are female and mixed breeds. Max is 11 and a shepherd/lab mix, Annabelle, five years old is a rottweiler/golden retriever mix, and Sugar is four and we're not what mixture but her name fits her personality. The Humane Society was the only place we thought when we first decided to adopt and they we wonderful each time. They didn't just help us adopt our dogs and that was it, there was always follow ups to see how things were going and if we had questions or concerns we knew we could always get help from them.

Lizzy Alfs

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:36 p.m.

What a great experience. Thanks for sharing! When I'm ready for a dog, I definitely want to adopt here.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 11:45 a.m.

I have a question: How many pit bulls and pit mixes does the HSHV import from other states? This is a legitimate question. My reason for asking is a) if the HSHV is concerned with the explosion of the pit population in Washtenaw County including Ypsilanti Township, then why import from other areas? and b) if this importing is being done, how much does it cost? It may be a good area to trim for the upcoming budget.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 10:37 p.m.

Rasquat, if you are not sure about the large number of pit bulls in Ypsi twp and surrounding areas, then you haven't been reading this blog enough. I would like to see how the importation of dogs is handled and how it is paid for. Maybe you are right and charities pay for the import, but I would like to see that stated.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

I'm not sure what you're talking about in terms of the concern over the "explosion of the pit population," but I'm willing to bet that that "explosion" is not coming from dogs adopted into homes in the area. HSHV would not be opposed to fixed dogs getting adopted into homes here - the problem comes from strays and dogs that are not fixed reproducing (and then not being able to get adopted because they are not socialized properly, and because of the negative stigma surrounding pit bulls). And PetSmart Charities pays for the transport of pit bulls (and other animals) from other states to HSHV, because they would likely be euthanized in shelters in those places.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 11:36 a.m.

Way to go!