Sanctuary helps local animals in multiple ways

Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Andy Breeden, manager of animal health at the Haven of the Ozarks animal sanctuary, holds a tabby kitten named Eagle Rock, one of a group of kittens named after towns in Missouri. Julie Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Haven of the Ozarks has 120 dogs, 40 cats on site

Haven of the Ozarks Animal Sanctuary in Washburn cares for 120 dogs and 40 cats waiting for homes and has been helping animals in Barry County since 1998.

The private, no-kill sanctuary, relies solely on public donations and fundraisers to operate.

Andy Breeden, manager of animal health at the Haven of the Ozarks animal sanctuary, holds a Corgi mix puppy in the pregnant and nursing mother room. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

"Most of our animals are stray or abandoned so we don't have a lot of history on them," said Andy Breeden, manager of animal health who has been at the sanctuary for over four years.

"Ninety percent come to us as stray and abandoned pets from the general public," said Lori Steffen, sanctuary director. "Ten percent come from owners who have passed away or gone into nursing homes. After that, we have a relationship with the city of Cassville police department and Aurora animal control.

"And there are the occasional rescues. There isn't a county shelter here, we are a private sanctuary. We bring in as we adopt out."

Lori Steffen and her husband, Mike Steffen, have been volunteering at the sanctuary since 2001. Mike was hired as director in 2002 and was the only paid staff for some time. Lori Steffen took over as director in September 2014, and Mike still works at the sanctuary.

Breeden said the number of adoptions vary but over the last couple years has increased.

"Mobile adoptions account for about half of adoptions," said Steffen. "Some of the animals can't go to the events though because of the van ride, or noisy crowds makes them anxious or afraid, causing them to want to stay in their crates or behave badly."

Exeter High School student Will Noltie provides company and socialization for Delilah, a cat at the Haven of the Ozarks Animal Sanctuary in Washburn waiting for adoption. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Steffen and Breeden said dogs and cats have a forever home at the sanctuary, but their mission is always to find homes for them.

Breeden said there's no way to guarantee a successful adoption, but one piece of advice he offered was to be sure the dog or cat meets everyone in the family first and any other pets upfront.

"We have a place here to do that, and want to make sure it's a good fit before they get home," Breeden said. "We don't know 100 percent how a dog or cat will act until you get them home because it's a lot different environment."

If an adoption does not work out, the dog or cat can still come back so that the animal still has a home. If adopters return the animal within 30 days, they get their adoption fee back less $10, Breeden said.

"We're here as a backup so they can always come back," said Steffen. "If no one else ever loves them you know you can."

The average stay for a dog is about 30 days.

"That's a pretty quick turnaround," said Steffen. Especially considering it can take two-three weeks to get a vet appointment, Steffen said.

Some are not so fortunate though, or have medical issues that make them virtually unadoptable, like Mickey, a nine-year old Siamese cat mix who came to the center two years ago. Mickey was adopted, but one day, his tail went limp. The owner tried to take him to the vet to help, but he had a spinal tumor that caused him not to be able to control his bladder. The care Mickey needed was not something the adopter could handle and he came back to the sanctuary to live.

"For animals like Mickey, the sanctuary is their forever home," Steffen said.

Andy Breeden, manager of animal health at the Haven of the Ozarks animal sanctuary, takes Mabel, a six-year old yellow lab out for a walk, who is all too eager to go. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Then there is Toby, a small dog with an enlarged heart and his medical bills are high. He came to the sanctuary because his owner passed away.

"The vet said his heart was huge for his tiny body, and his lungs already have fluid in them," said Steffen. "He's active as can be but is already in heart failure so to find him a home is probably not going to happen. If we can find him a permanent foster we might."

When adoption is not feasible for pets like Toby or Mickey, there is another option, and that is to become a foster.

Steffen said a foster is someone who houses the animal but is not responsible for its medical bills. So they can still take the animal home but the sanctuary handles its medical care.

One good example of a successful foster is 15-year old canine brothers Winston and Willard.

"They were born here," said Steffen. "Their mom was a black chow, and they've been together their entire lives. They have a family that's fostering them, and the highlight of the brothers' day is seeing the school bus come by and the kids coming home. Then they go back to sleep. They're old and tired."

Steffen said the family originally tried adopting them but the mom was too allergic. But they kept stopping by to visit then came up with the idea of housing them in a pen and it has worked out great for the dogs.

Gigi, a doberman and pincher mix who has been at the sanctuary for 14 years and was born there, has been adopted four times, unsuccessfully, so she is permanent resident, owner and operator at the shelter, as Breeden affectionately calls her. An animal lover himself, Breeden has three dogs and 4 cats.

Andy Breeden, manager of animal health at the Haven of the Ozarks animal sanctuary, walks in to pay Sandy and Mandy a visit, a pair who came in together after their owner passed away. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

He said each time she was adopted, she wouldn't eat or ran off

"So, we just adopted her ourself and she runs the property," he said.

Sandy and Mandy are small dogs who came to the sanctuary about two months ago after their owners passed away or moved to a nursing home.

"They came here together," said Breeden. "They are a bonded pair. They were so scared when they got here. The smaller ones are easier to find a home for."

The shelter likes to ensure newbies stay for at least a month before they are adopted to be sure they complete the necessary series of vaccinations.

New animals receive three vaccinations, are micro-chipped, spayed or neutered, dewormed twice and receive an initial does of Revolution for pest control within the first month before they are available for adoption. Puppies and kittens are not available for adoption until they are old enough. According to state law, that is eight weeks.

Why is age important, an adopter might ask?

"Because starting at about five weeks is when puppies and kittens learn their social skills," Steffen said. "They learn basic etiquette like learning how hard to bite and how to behave. They're taught that by their litter mates and their mother. If taken away too soon they are underdeveloped in those areas so they don't have that. That's up to the family unit to teach them those things."

The adoption process starts with an application, a conversation and a meeting and greeting of family members. The adoption process is just as much about finding a good fit for the animal as it is for the adopter, Breeden said.

We have an application to go over and a contract," he said. "We're not going to adopt a high-energy cattle dog to someone who is in an apartment. It's about a good fit for the dog or cat, too."

Breeden said the location where they live makes a difference, too, as some towns like Purdy have banned certain breeds like pit bulls or Rottweilers.

"Pit bulls have a bad rap," said Breeden. "Most days, Cindy is the official greeter out here. Everyone that meets her loves her."

Cindy is a pit bull that Breeden adopted from the shelter when she was 9 months old.

Adoption fees for dogs five and under are $90 and for ages five to ten, $75. All senior dogs or cats over ten years is $25. Cat adoption fees are $65 for age five and under, $50 for five and over.

In the March issue of the sanctuary's quarterly newsletter, Steffen said that as of May 1 adoption fees for dogs would increase due to increased operating costs, but fees for cats remain the same.

"We are struggling to find enough homes for our fantastic felines, so in hopes of increasing cat adoptions, those fees will not increase at this time," Steffen said.

She also said that while an increase in adoption fees will help some, it certainly won't cover all increased costs.

"We have added to our vaccination schedule as part of our intake process," she said. "Instead of worming once, we worm twice, and now do a flea and tick treatment that is $9 per animal per month. But in the end, you don't have the health issues that come from them having worms, fleas and ticks and you have less skin issues. "

But, raising the adoption fee doesn't even cover two months of that, she said.

"We spend $18-20,000 or more just on flea and tick prevention a year," she said. "Its a huge expense that isn't even counted in the adoption price increase. We didn't used to test our cats for leukemia but now we do, and the added wormer and vaccinations that we do alone takes up the cost difference in the increase. So we need you and your ideas to help with fundraisers."

Steffen said businesses, like local restaurants, skating rinks or bowling alleys can help by sharing a percentage of sales for a day or night. Or anyone can host a fundraising event or party.

Area student groups have supported the sanctuary by sponsoring fundraisers, such as the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America from Cassville Middle School, and others, or individuals who just do a fundraiser of any time and donate the proceeds.

"It's just that simple, to have a bake sale," Steffen said. There are lots of creative ways to have fundraisers.

Two students from Stella recently did just that. Their grandmother, Holly Bradley, and the two girls, Icie and Micah Bradley, made baked goods and candy and exchanged them for donations at their grandparents 25th wedding anniversary party, making $174.53 for the sanctuary.

Some children have even asked for dog and cat supplies on their birthday instead of presents then donated the items to the sanctuary.

"One 10-year old girl gave me an envelope with a note and $7," Steffen said. "That's still $7 and almost pays for flea and tick treatment for an animal for the month. All of the little things add up."

In addition to fundraisers, Steffen said they can always use supplies like dry food, paper towels, bleach, scrub brushes, brooms, snacks for the workers and even things like Walmart gift cards to help cover gas for the van or mowing.

Other things volunteers can do are basically the same things they would do at home, Steffen said.

"Generally anything you'd have to do around your own house, we have to do here," she said. "We have to mow the grass, do the dishes, laundry and sweep and mop the floors. And on top of that we have the actual care of the animals as well. Taking care of the animals' social needs is equally important because having adequate social skills can help increase the chances of adoption."

In 2005, the sanctuary took in a whopping 17 dogs from a hoarder.

"None of those dogs were socialized," Steffen said. "We still have three of them here, but two of them are a bonded pair and one staffer who used to work here and is in veterinary school is trying to adopt them."

Some volunteers, like Exeter High School student Will Noltie, exercise, socialize and brush when the dogs and cats.

"I come after school to pet the cats," Noltie said.

He said he likes cats better because they're lower maintenance and don't slobber all over you like dogs.

"They just crawl up in your lap," he said.

"We can always use volunteers, from helping with chores to spending time with the animals and having fundraisers for us," Breeden said.

Breeden said in the last couple years the sanctuary has been able to build new pens and add gravel to get the animals off the mud as a result of donations.

Everyone who works there, which includes three full-time works, the director and a part-time weekend staffer, agrees on the benefits.

"Being able to spend time with animals and see them come in, whatever condition mentally or physically, and see them change and go off to new homes is one of the best parts of working at the sanctuary," Steffen said.

Steffen said there are mobile adoption events every week.

On the first Saturday of the month they will be at Orcheln's in Republic, the second Saturday at Petco in Fayetteville, Ark., the third Sunday at Petsmart in Joplin, and the fourth Sunday at Petsmart in Springfield.

"And for two weeks out of each month we have cats that stay at Petco in Rogers, Ark.," said Steffen. "We need volunteers to help clean their cages."

They also have special events, such as the annual Ugly Dog contest in Shell Knob, Eagle Rock Days in the fall and the chili cook off in Cassville, where animals make appearances.

The sanctuary is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays and major holidays.

To adopt a cat or dog, make a donation, do a fundraiser, or volunteer some time to help the animals, people may call 417-835-3647 or visit the sanctuary's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/havenoftheozarks.

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