The Issue:

Stray animals in Perry continue to increase in population.

Community effect:

As both stray cats and dogs increase in population, less space is available at the Humane Society, creating a need for foster care.

Perry’s Humane Society, a non-profit organization whose goal has been to nurture and cater to animals in need for the past twelve years, will hand over a portion of its responsibilities back to the City of Perry. As of May 15, the City will take over the task of finding the owners of strays, which typically consists of a week deadline before they are placed up for adoption.

“We will be returning responsibility,” President of Perry’s Humane Society, Abby Benifiel said. “We will no longer be maintaining or caring for our animals at the holding facility.”

The decision was mutually made by both parties as a way to alleviate responsibility for the Humane Society volunteers.

“They wanted to utilize their volunteers in a different way and we definitely appreciate all of the help they’ve given us in the past,” City Administrator, Sven Peterson said.

Teaming up with the Perry Police Department and Public Works, stray animals were taken to “the Pound.” In the past, if owners were not found, then the Humane Society would assist in determining the location for the animal whether it was in the facility or locating a foster home.

In addition to finding the animals original owners, the society has averaged around 75-125 dog adoptions a year, along with 85 cat adoptions a year.

Perry Police Department Communications Supervisor, Lori Riley, said in 2016’s records, seventy-one animals were brought to the police department.

This year, thirteen animals have already been turned in.

“People call or pick them up and bring them here to the police station,” Riley said. “If there are tags, we try to get a hold of the owners, if there’s no tags - they go to the pound.”

The Perry Pound, located on 1419 Ivy Place, holds both cats and dogs who are turned in from the Police Department.

In order to find the owners of animals who are turned in, the Humane Society’s Facebook typically publishes photos of strays.

According to Benifiel, the return to owner rate has gone up 80% since the Humane Society took over the project twelve years ago.

Taking a step back from working alongside the Pound, the Humane Society will now work as a foster-based group.

The organization will still be involved in their volunteer efforts to cater to animals as well as find foster homes during their busy seasons.

Cattery: the Humane Society’s holding facility for cats

At the Humane Society, the organization carries a state license and volunteers work throughout the week to maintain the care of animals.

“Since we are a volunteer organization, none of the volunteers receive a penny for what we do,” Benifiel said.

Benifiel spent around forty hours a week caring for animals on top of her full-time job.

“There’s more work that goes into it than people realize,” Benifiel mentions.

As spring approaches, the amount of cats turning up continue to stagger.

The Society’s cattery is able to hold a maximum capacity of twenty to twenty-five cats.

“Kitten season” occurs during the springtime, with an extensive time line lasting from March to October each year.

“Right now, kittens are coming in at the rate of six to eight a week,” Benifiel said. “During the height of kitten season, we can get as many as fifteen.”

To assist with the influx of kittens, foster homes are volunteered throughout the Perry community. Some of the tasks include bottle-feeding the kittens in a few weeks as they grow.

“This is the need: we have to have foster families,” Feline Coordinator, Dorthea Peterson said.

Animals are taken to “Furry Friends” in Des Moines where they are spayed or neutered and vaccinated before entering a foster-home or the cattery in Perry.

“We are always looking for someone to assist in driving and transporting the animals to the building,” Benifiel said.

The Humane Society is looking for volunteers who are interested in either the transportation of animals to the Des Moines facility or participating in a foster program for strays, primarily kittens.

A sea of animals: morning chores

Feline Coordinator, Dorthea Peterson has arrived for her morning volunteer shift at the cattery.

“We were given the facility to use by Stokleys,” Peterson explains, taking off her coat and pulling out the keys to where the cats reside.

The building, equipped with an outdoor area for cats, was donated to the facility. Volunteers have assisted in the construction of several projects to entertain cats such as wooden posts that hold cat beds at different heights.

Peterson has been volunteering for four years at the shelter.

“Alright, babes, we’re comin’ - back up,” Peterson says as she opens the door to where the cats anxiously await her arrival.

A radio sits in the corner softly playing country music; a means for entertainment while animals wait for the next volunteer to arrive.

Volunteers arrive in the morning and evening to feed, while a group of volunteers help clean and scrub the area in the afternoon.

Peterson quickly begins to identify characteristics of individual cats: a feline who arrived with loose teeth, later losing all of its teeth on the side; an eleven-year-old “bonded pair” surrendered by their owner; a cat with markings of a bangle animal.

“Our volunteers do all of the care for them; the socializing and the loving,” Peterson said.

Walking to a separate room, Peterson begins preparing meals for the cats. She’s separated from the animals by a screen door.

Cats gather around the screen door - a calico digs its claws into the door and begins to climb.

“People have a throw away attitude,” Peterson explains, stirring the food. “They’re cute when they’re little, but oh boy if they get pregnant.”

Opening the door, she places paper bowls throughout the space on the floor, allowing each cat to either share or take over their food.

“We just depend on volunteers and we depend on responsible volunteers,” Peterson said.

Volunteer range from washing the towels each cat rests on to making sure litter is fresh at the end of the day.

In the past, people have expressed an interest in helping the organization, but the follow through is often difficult, Peterson explains.

“There is a need for socialization, but it’s just the idea that once they find out that they have to scoop the litter pin and there’s some work involved.”

Peterson begins to fill each paper plate with food.

“They are dependent on us for their needs,” Peterson said.

Making sure animals have fresh water and food are essential, Peterson mentions.

“They [cats] are confined so they can’t get anything unless we give it to them,” Peterson said.

The outcome: finding homes for the lost

In addition to finding the animals original owners, the society has averaged around 75-125 dog adoptions a year, along with 85 cat adoptions a year.

Animals have been adopted out to families from all over the country, Benifiel mentions.

“We have adopted dogs that have ended up in California, in Canada, and those people still keep in touch with us,” Benifiel said.

At one point, Benifiel spent around forty hours a week tending to animals on top of our full-time job.

Volunteers clean the cattery facility, bathe the towels the cats sleep on, regularly wash the toys they play with, give the animals clean water and bowls of food at regulated times, pay the electricity to keep the facility warm, and spend time getting to know the animals.

“You see the look on a family’s face or how excited people are when they get to meet their new family member and it’s all worth it,” Benifiel said.

Before they are sent off to a new home, they experience their own sense of home, too.

To become a volunteer at the Humane Society or donate items such as cat food or cat litter, contact Abby Benifiel: 515-240-7581.