By Ann Leach

Connie Andrews is confident the community will continue to come through for Joplin Humane Society’s pets when supporters gather at this year’s Fur Ball. The event will be held Oct. 7 from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Downstream Casino, the event’s presenting sponsor.

“It has always been our largest fundraising event of the year,” Andrews said. “Last year’s efforts brought in $135,000, which was awesome, and every bit of that goes back into our operating fund.” It costs $3,200 a day to keep the shelter open, and JHS does not receive funding from national organizations. “We receive funds from the community and the people in it.”

This year’s need is just as great given the shelter currently houses 587 dogs and cats cared for by a staff of 28, four of whom are part-time. “There is a lot of compassion fatigue with the staff,” Andrews said. “It’s hard on them.” The majority of staff members average five to 10 years on the job. “In our industry, there is a high turnover,” Andrews said. “I’m proud that we have definitely made a huge jump in the wages we pay here and are pretty competitive. We try to show the staff how appreciative we are with paid holidays, gift cards here and there, and annual reviews with rewards.”

Fortunately, there are 533 active volunteers who help support the staff by walking dogs, bathing dogs, playing with cats and fostering animals in their homes so more room is available for the constant influx of animals.

“We make volunteering as simple as possible,” Andrews said. “There’s a volunteer application and an orientation that is held at least once a month. This includes an animal behavior handling course that the volunteer is fully trained in, and then we put the volunteer to work right away.”

People interested in adopting pets go through an adoption process that helps the animal and prospective pet parent make a match. That potential owner selects the animal they would like to meet and the staff observes the interactions. Andrews said, “There’s a lot of education that goes on in these meetings. And if there are other pets in the home, we encourage the perspective owner to bring that animal in to introduce them to the new one and see if there is a negative reaction. It’s all about what’s best for the animal.”

All of these efforts will be celebrated and supported at the Oct. 7 Boots and Bling Outlaws for Paws event. There will be a selfie station, dinner and dancing, and a live auction.