Kudos to Stray Hearts

Staci Matlock
editor@taosnews.com
Posted 1/9/20

Stray Hearts Animal Shelter is an example of a Taos nonprofit that has turned itself around through the supreme efforts of a small group of people. The shelter had a long history of struggling both financially and with internal policies that lead to public criticism. That turnaround is not just critical for saving animals, but also for public safety.

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Kudos to Stray Hearts

Posted

Stray Hearts Animal Shelter is an example of a Taos nonprofit that has turned itself around through the supreme efforts of a small group of people. The shelter had a long history of struggling both financially and with internal policies that lead to public criticism. That turnaround is not just critical for saving animals, but also for public safety.

In 2018 alone, the shelter took in more than 1,400 dogs and cats. The save rate for those animals is 96 percent - 2 percent higher than the prior year - with most of the animals adopted out within the community or taken to no-kill shelters elsewhere. The shelter ensured those animals were spayed, neutered and vaccinated, preventing the birth of yet more unwanted dogs and cats and slowing the spread of diseases.

Without the shelter's efforts, more dogs might be running amok in dangerous packs. Stray cats take a toll on songbirds. Without the shelter, the only option is to shoot strays in the streets, which would certainly not set well with many locals or the tourists Taos is trying to attract. Bottom line - the animal shelter is an essential service to the town and county that needs ongoing and increased support. The cost of caring for all those animals isn't getting cheaper.

Under the steady, experienced guidance of executive director Cynthis Lucas, supported by a skilled, engaged board of Donna Karr, Jay Prunty, Barbara Ann Downs VanCalsem, Karen Yates and Sarah Parr, and backed by a devoted staff, the shelter has accomplished a tremendous amount in the last couple of years.

Here are some of the steps they've taken to turn the shelter around, put it on more stable footing and improve transparency. Some of these are ones the best nonprofits take to be accountable to their donors and the public.

• Posting their updated federal financial reports to the shelter website so the public can easily see what's happening with the money the shelter takes in.

• Posting email addresses for each board member so the public can contact them directly if desired.

• Posting an annual update on the website that shows how many animals they took in and what happened to them.

• Establishing an endowment fund with Taos Community Foundation.

• Raising the funds to finish targeted projects such as an expanded area for the cats.

• Opening a resale shop and cat café - where people pay $5 to visit with cats and have a cup of coffee - as another way to bring in revenue.

There is more to be done, such as finding the funds to hire a full-time veterinarian and perhaps have a mobile spay and neuter van that could serve the entire Taos County and Enchanted Circle region.

Other local nonprofits should take note of the steps Stray Hearts has taken to be transparent, financially responsible and strategic in its operations.

Kudos to everyone at the shelter.

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