• Homer Animal Friends looks after needs of homeless dogs, cats and other animals
By Christina Whiting
Homer Animal Friends is a Homer organization made up of local individuals committed to improving the lives of animals in Homer. From their simple beginnings nearly 30 years ago, HAF has evolved into a 100 percent volunteer, grassroots organization, governed by a board of directors.
HAF’s officers are President Robyn Smith, Vice President Eileen Faulkner, Secretary Lynn Kee and Secretary Janet Higley Board members Pat Moss, Pat Boone, Dick Leirer, Valda Ziemelis and Sherry Bess.
“HAF fosters responsible pet ownership, educates families to ensure that pets and their companions live in harmony, supports the homeless pets at the shelter and provides assistance with emergency veterinary expenses,” Higley said.
HAF was created in 1984 when Pat Moss and other individuals recognized the number of unwanted dogs and cats in the community, as well as the poor conditions at the animal shelter. They saw a need for advocacy and have dedicated themselves to this labor of love since that time.
“The original animal shelter was built in the 1970s,” Moss said. “It had no insulation or amenities and was basically a shell on a cement slab with a few chain link runs and a hose bib. There was very little effort toward finding owners or on adoption.”
In 1989, HAF became certified as a tax-exempt organization. Of all their successes, they are especially proud of how instrumental they were in raising funds and gathering support from the city to build the new animal shelter in 2009. The shelter is owned by the city of Homer and funded through a contract that Coastal Animal Care has with the city.
“In the past year, I’ve looked at the shelter budgets for the cities of Soldotna, Kenai, Valdez and Kodiak,” Moss said. “Homer is the only city that contracts the shelter management and services out. Paid city employees staff the other shelters and they all receive more financial support from their cities. We still have a long ways to go.”
HAF provides additional funds to the shelter for necessary items.
“We provide funds for special food, blankets, toys and vet care, items that provide for the animal’s comfort, security and health and that cannot be provided through the city budget,” Higley said.
HAF is funded through grants, donations, memberships and fundraisers.
Grants for HAF come through sources including The Homer Foundation and Pet Smart. Donations come in through individuals and businesses via the Pick, Click, Give program and can be made online and through the donation jars found around town.
“Free Spirit Wear is having a sale and is donating 40 percent of what they sell on Nov. 15-16 to HAF,” Smith said. “That’s just one example of community support.”
HAF hosts several annual fundraisers. Strut your Mutt takes place each June, where community members bring their dogs out or walk a shelter dog.
The Unparty is a mail-out that takes place every other year, seeking donations. HAF also has a booth at the Homer Street Fair, the Nutcracker Faire and the Holiday Bazaar, where they sell merchandise, answer questions, renew and sign up new memberships and recruit new volunteers.
Funds raised are used to assist with animal care at the animal shelter and the spay/neuter program has been especially successful.
“When I joined HAF in 1995, we provided spay/neuter coupons for 168 pets at a cost of $4,435,” Boone said. “In 2012, we spayed/neutered 414 animals at a cost of $24,245. Since HAF started, we’ve spent a total of $226,931 on the spay/neuter program.”
Spay/neuter coupons are available to those on public assistance, for multiple dogs and for low-income owners, with a focus on animals adopted from the shelter. Coupons are also available at Barb’s Video for animals not adopted from the Shelter. The coupons can be used at Homer Veterinary Clinic.
Funds are also used to educate the community. HAF teaches pet ownership responsibility and bite prevention through demonstrations in the elementary schools and at the Homer Health Fair & Safe Kids Fair. They also purchase and donate books and DVD’s on pet care and training to the Homer Public Library.
Homer Dog Trainers, which is under the umbrella of HAF, has become integral in educating dog owners. In addition to agility and nose work (training a dog’s natural scenting abilities), the trainers teach the fundamentals of training through Puppy K and Family Dog classes.
“We show what dogs can do besides sit and down,” Boone said. “The pet/owner bond that forms through working together is amazing.
November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month. The Golden Paws program allows qualifying senior citizens who adopt a senior dog or cat from the animal shelter to have the adoption fee and first vet visit fee waived. The Buster program is a pet-owner compatibility program. Pat Boone along with Pat Moss of Homer Dog Trainers work with shelter dogs to evaluate the best type of home for the dog. This prevents dogs from being returned to the shelter because of incompatibility issues.
There are currently ten to twelve active volunteers who sit on committees and help at special events. Homer Animal Friends is eager for new volunteers to add to their team.
“We need people with energy and a love of animals to help us keep going,” Smith said. “Right now, we could really use a grant writer, event/fundraiser coordinators, a membership administrator and people to help at events.”
Originally created to affect change at the shelter, Homer Animal Friends continues to meet that goal while also working hard to improve the lives of Homer’s pets and shelter animals. They do this one dog, cat, bird, ferret and bunny at a time.
For more information on services available, to donate, join or volunteers, contact Homer Animal Friends at www.HomerAnimals.com, HomerAnimals@gmail.com or 235-SPAY (7729). Memberships and donations can also be mailed to Box 2300, Homer, Alaska 99603.
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