How Harbor Humane Society can help pet owners in crisis

People struggling with a health or housing issue can face the added stress of losing a beloved pet because they can’t take care of them.
Harbor Humane Society (HHS) hopes to address these heartbreaking situations by expanding how it helps people keep their pets in their homes by adding a new staff position, a community outreach manager. A significant portion of the funding for this new initiative is coming from a two-year $40,000 grant through the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area (CFHZ).

“The position was an idea of a staff member, who noticed that our team really needed the coordination of community resources and the expansion of future programs,” says Jennifer Nuernberg, HHS director of marketing and strategic initiatives. “With current programs already in place, such as the pet food pantry and low-cost vaccine clinic, there was shared responsibility among staff members. Having one community resource coordinator in place has helped streamline where community members can reach out and offer an opportunity for growing more programs to better support our community in keeping pets in their homes.”
 Harbor Humane Society has some programs such as the pet food pantry already in place to help low income families. It is expanding those offerings with a new role — the community outreach manager.
Through its proactive grant program, CFHZ will commit energy and resources to targeted investments in three issue areas, which were identified using data from community-specific research surveys and input from nonprofit and cross-sector partners. Those three issue areas are increasing access and availability of mental health services; leveraging out-of-school time to mitigate the education opportunity gap; and increasing the consistency of healthy parent or other caring adult relationships in kids’ lives.
Harnessing community collaboration
How does this translate to people and their pets? Oftentimes, individuals living in crises are reluctant to call the Humane Society because they believe that this step will result in a permanent separation from their pet. Harbor Humane’s new team member will manage intake diversion, emergency medical care for pets, temporary foster, food and supply needs, and domestic and other socioeconomic circumstances. The intentional connection between community outreach and programming reflects a shift in animal welfare programming and is built around a national model committed to community collaboration.
“It is our hope to expand our community programs through the community resource coordinator. One aspect that we are promoting is the welfare of our staff and volunteers through compassion fatigue and mental health support,” says Nuernberg. “We are hopeful that this position will help keep more pets in their home and provide needed resources to pet owners in need as we recognize the fact that pet ownership is expensive, and all pets deserve to stay in loving homes. We know the benefits of pet ownership can be essential to human health and well-being and, therefore, we hope to promote the human-animal bond by keeping families together.”
“This will help us provide a designated staff person focused on preserving the bond between people and their pets by helping people who are struggling with pet care,” adds Jen Self-Aulgur, executive director of HHS. “We firmly believe that pets are family, and we are excited to partner with human service agencies to assist and support clients, and the general public as a whole, in preserving that bond. It is truly a win-win situation if we can keep pets out of shelters and with their families, and we are so grateful for the support from the Community Foundation to make this dream become a reality.”

Nuernberg says HHS is looking for someone with deep compassion and kindness, who is willing to approach all members of the community without judgment. The ideal candidate would be someone who truly understands the human-animal bond, which is paramount to keeping pets in their homes.  
Programs in place
HHS already has several programs in place for those who need a little extra help taking care of their beloved pets. They have programs to assist with pet food and low-cost vaccines. They host a monthly pet food pantry, 3-6 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month, at 100 Aniline Ave. North in Holland.
“Our Pet Food Pantry aims to assist with supplemental food for those who may be struggling to afford food month to month,” says Nuernberg. “We also host a monthly vaccine clinic the third Friday of each month, from  11 a.m. to 1 p.m., where pet owners can get low-cost vaccines and preventative care.”
The HHS team also offers low-cost behavior consultations for dog owners who may be experiencing difficulties with their pet’s behavior. For kittens and small animals, the team can also assist with intake diversion resources to address behavioral concerns.
Expanding resources, partnerships
“We also hope to continue to expand our community resources by increasing local community vaccine clinics and disseminating community education materials to promote responsible pet ownership,” says Nuernberg. “We also hope to increase partnerships with local human welfare agencies so that we can reach more underserved communities that could use our assistance.”
HHS is always working on projects and programs to better serve animals. Fundraising is their only source of revenue, and the holidays become a busy time of year, bringing in an overwhelming number of animals and fewer adoptions than normal.
“We are doing our best to stay afloat but are so grateful to our community of supporters,” says Nuernberg. “Please consider adoption. If you can’t adopt, foster. If you can’t foster, volunteer. If you can’t volunteer, donate. If you can’t donate, advocate.”
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Read more articles by Kelsey Sanders.