Humane Society hosts open house after 5-month closure

Melinda Wright said the open house, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29, at the shelter at 214 E. Main St., will be a way of thanking volunteers and others who helped combat the ringworm outbreak that shuttered the humane society facility. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — Those tiny whiskered faces peering out the windows of the Hancock County Humane Society shelter have been awaiting visitors for months now.

On Saturday, Feb. 29, the organization hopes to get a flood of guests to visit the cats and kittens when it has an open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The shelter, at 214 E. Main St. in downtown Greenfield, has been closed since September, when a ringworm outbreak spread through its dozens of sheltered cats and kittens.

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After a rough few months of nursing them back to health, humane society volunteers are eager to re-open to the public and find adoptable cats their forever homes.

The trouble started in September when a cat being brought into the shelter ended up having ringworm, despite showing no symptoms and passing its health screening exams. The contagious fungal infection then spread throughout the animals sheltered there, forcing it to close as volunteers scrambled to protect its animals and gradually nurse those infected back to health.

“While it’s not fatal, ringworm in cats spreads really fast since they shed so much hair, and the spores are in their hair,” said humane society president Melinda Wright.

“Whereas when people get ringworm on their skin they can just rub a little ointment on it, with cats it spreads much more easily,” she said.

Wright credits local veterinarian Jeffrey Hanssen of Westwood Veterinary Clinic for working to help get the shelter’s pet population back to good health.

Wright said the open house on Saturday is not only to welcome the public back to the shelter, but to thank those like Hanssen who helped out during a challenging few months.

Hanssen donated his time to come to the shelter and examine and treat the cats on-site.

The Hancock County Community Foundation provided an emergency grant to help cover the cost of supplies.

Greenfield-Hancock County Animal Management helped out whenever someone wanted to surrender a cat back to the humane society.

The Youngblood Animal Massage Center in Greenfield fostered some cats and played host to a few adoption events.

Elanco helped secure medication that was on back order and helped offset the cost. A group of employees also spent a day helping clean the shelter.

When the community heard about the shelter’s challenges, many stopped by to drop off requested donations like bleach and paper towels.

“They were dropping things off every day,” Wright said.

The Hancock County Humane Society was founded in the 1970s and has operated out of its current location — a simple, one-story brick building on Main Street — since the 1990s.

The shelter is run solely on donations by volunteers, but the closure caused the volunteer base to drop from roughly 40 to 20 people due to a lack of activity, Wright said.

She’s hoping the open house will help the shelter connect with past and potential volunteers who can help maintain the shelter, facilitate adoptions and run vaccination clinics. Teen volunteers and families are welcome, she said.

“We need to let people know it’s time to come back and volunteer again, and let people who haven’t yet worked with us know about what kind of opportunities we have,” Wright said.

The need for volunteers is even more critical as “kitten season” approaches, when an increasing number of litters are expected to take up residence in the shelter and local foster homes.

There’s a number of different options for those interested in fostering cats, said Wright, from those willing to bottle feed every couple of hours to those who can shelter a nursing mom or a few young kittens within a contained space.

Wright, who fosters cats in her home office, spends her work days surrounded by playful cats and kittens, which brings some added joy and frivolity to her work day. (No dogs are housed at the humane society.)

She encourages others to stop by the shelter Saturday and learn about how they, too, can get involved. “If you’ve always wondered what the shelter is like inside, come in and take a tour, visit with the cats and check us out,” she said.

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Hancock County Humane Society’s Open House

Saturday, Feb. 29th 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

214 E. Main St., Greenfield

Tour the shelter, meet the cats and kittens available for adoption and learn about volunteering and fostering opportunities.

Gifts for pets and their people will be for sale, along with copies of “LittleCat, LittleCat, please come home with me!,” written by local author and volunteer Kathleen Free.

Visitors are encouraged to bring donations of cat food, litter, toys, small paper plates, cat beds and blankets. Monetary donations will be collected to replace cat trees.