Cleaning, laundering, preparing meals….”All in a day’s work,” the old adage goes. This applies not only to one’s home life, but to life inside the Rita B. Huff Animal Shelter as well. Day in and day out, tireless effort by staff and volunteers is expended to sustain and improve the quality of life of the many animals who have found themselves within the loving arms of the shelter’s care. Let’s walk through the front door of this lively facility and watch love in action!
It’s a Monday at Rita B. Huff Animal Shelter and the day begins, as does every day, with a good dose of cleaning. The facility, located at 530 Bearkat Boulevard near the Sam Houston State University campus in Huntsville, Texas, is staffed with 8 paid employees, 5 regular volunteers, and an army of part-time volunteers. The daily routine includes sweeping and mopping all areas to maintain a healthy environment for people and animals alike. Laundering towels and other items is a mountainous task each day, and thankfully, there are volunteers who prefer this duty. All animals are fed twice daily and administered any medications as required. Kennel supervisor Ryan and Cat Specialist Anne are responsible for the care of the animals. They keep a watchful eye throughout the day to ensure the kennels are clean and safe. In fact, the entire facility is very well-maintained.
Cleaning usually takes 2 to 3 hours each morning to prepare the facility for opening to the public at noon. The Rita B. Huff Board is hoping to expand its public hours in the near future, but at present it is open Monday-Friday from 12 -6 PM, and on Saturday from 12-4 PM.
The morning hours are also used for readying paperwork for adoptions and other services offered by the facility. The adoption process involves a thorough evaluation of the adopting family and their environment, so every care is taken to provide a good home for the dog, cat, or other animal being adopted. The Rita B. Huff Mission statement is as follows: Our mission is to preserve the lives and well-being of animals through adoption, rescue, spaying and neutering, and education. We serve the citizens of Walker and select neighboring counties, and we strive to protect the health, safety, and welfare of animals, children and citizens who reside in these communities.
As the mission statement declares, the protection and welfare of animals, children and citizens is paramount. To accomplish this, several services are offered by the shelter which include vaccinating as well as spaying and neutering, procedures which are required before an adoption can be approved. And, for a fee, these same services are offered to any person or family wanting to have their own pet vaccinated and spayed or neutered. The vaccination clinic is offered on Mondays from 11-12, and the spay and neutering services on Wednesdays, all of which are performed by a local veterinarian. Appointments must be made in advance for these services by calling the shelter at 936-295-4666. Microchipping and registering a pet are also offered for the fee of $25. And when a dog has been found and brought to the center, the staff will check for a microchip in hopes that the dog and owner can be reunited. The center is hoping to employ a full-time veterinarian in the near future, enabling them as a full-time clinic to be able to offer more services to the public on a daily basis.
The doors open, and the public is invited in. It’s adoption time, and the residents each wait with eager hope this will be their lucky day! How did these animals arrive here in the first place? Many and varied situations resulted in their journeys to the shelter, some sad, some even tragic. But fortunately for each of these four-legged residents, a good Samaritan was nearby to bring the animal to a place of safety and hope. In addition to dogs and cats, the shelter will take in most any small animal. Ferrets, bunnies, hamsters, and even birds, have benefited from the services offered at the center.
On this afternoon, Teygan and her father walk in. On a recent visit to the shelter, Teygan set her gaze and her heart upon a beautiful yellow-colored kitty, and they are now here to take “Daisy” to her new home. Paperwork has been completed, references checked, and all information verified for accuracy. Morgan Jernigan and her staff put forth tremendous effort to ensure that not only is an animal well-matched to a prospective owner, but that the pet’s new environment is safe and the individual or family can adequately care for its needs. As Teygan lovingly cuddles Daisy, her father takes the items supplied with the adoption, and they walk out the door toward many delightful years ahead!
An adoption fee for a dog is $85 and for a cat, $45. This includes the vaccinations and the spay or neutering service. The shelter handles from 50-70 adoptions each month. There is usually a “Pet of the Week” offered at a discounted adoption rate and a goodie basket to accompany the pet home. Sometimes, these are animals who have been at the facility for a prolonged period of time due to a variety of reasons and have not yet met their perfect family match! The “Pet of the Week” and many of the other boarders are pictured on the Rita B. Huff Facebook page.
Thomas and Lisa have come to find the perfect dog to accompany them as they move into their new home. This is their first pet, and they have decided a puppy or young dog would be a great addition to their family. After walking through the facility, they have not seen their “new love” and inquire as to other options. They are directed to a bulletin board in the office area, where pictures of all the animals in foster care are displayed. The Rita B. Huff Animal Shelter has limited space, and when an overflow of dogs and cats exist, they call those individuals and families who have volunteered to keep them for a temporary period of time. When someone is interested in one of these animals, a time is arranged for the pet to be brought to the facility.
Puppies are not allowed on the premises until they have completed two series of vaccinations, and any sick animals are either quarantined at the shelter or live in foster care until they are nursed back to health. The staff is vigilant to keep the animals in excellent health and to provide for their medical needs as situations arise. Every effort is taken to care for these animals as long as they are at the center. The longest stay has been 4 years, and presently, one dog (Dolly) has been in their care for 2 years. Several of the dogs currently residing in the center have been there since they were puppies. Also, this is a “no kill” center. The only time in which an animal is euthanized is when he or she is in pain with an incurable disease and is not adoptable. It is very seldom this situation occurs. When it does, the animal is taken to a foster home and “loved on” for a period of time beforehand. The animal’s needs always come first.
The new semester has begun at Sam Houston State University and John, Tim, and Shelly have signed up to volunteer on a regular basis at the center. Classes are over for the day, and they have come in to help walk, bathe, and feed the dogs. It’s a hot day, and they may put some pools of cool water out for the dogs to enjoy! There are many daily, weekly, and monthly volunteers at the center, but more help is always needed. Even an hour or two once a month is appreciated! Volunteers can come in and play with the cats in the Cat Room. One mom brought her child in to practice reading in front of a dog. It helped with the child’s reading skills and was stimulating to the dog! Occasionally, a sports team will volunteer, and each of the members will chip in time to help. There are numerous ways to be involved. In addition to helping with the animals’ care, donations of food are always in demand.
Every new semester at SHSU brings new students and a new wave of adoptions. Local apartment complexes have each set standards for types and weight limits of the animals allowed on their properties, information that must be verified before an adoption can be made. The center staff works tirelessly to ensure that pets are placed in safe environments and that the standards are met. If an adoption is made and the match between pet and person doesn’t work out, the center asks that the animal be brought back so that a new home can be found for the pet.
The doors close on another energetic and productive day at the Rita B. Huff Animal Shelter. The staff and volunteers were busy throughout the day answering phones, verifying application data, helping with intake of new animals and adoptions of those in residence. More animals were vaccinated, spayed and neutered, donations of food accepted, more laundry done, animals fed, bathed, and walked, and on and on it goes. For more information go to www.ritabhuff.org or call 936-295-4666. This is a tax exempt 501(3)c organization, and your donations of any kind will be truly appreciated and put to excellent use. The center is also in partnership with the Ellis Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to supply dogs for the Second Chances obedience training program.
A thank you is due to David Ross, President-elect of the Board, and Board member Dava Gordy for their time involved in the interview and tour of this well-maintained facility and program.