About Our Shelter...
The Elk Country Animal Shelter was formed in November 2002, working as a group to raise the funds needed to build and operate an animal shelter in Montmorency County, Michigan. At this time,we have acquired a facility, remodeled and remain active in humane education and spay and neuter programs for the community. Our Raise the Woof Capital Fund Campaign continues with plenty of opportunities for the community and our friends to help.
The organization has become a dynamic and powerful animal advocacy group in Montmorency County, Michigan. ECAS has created something from nothing through the efforts of volunteers and the community. And they have done so without anything up their sleeves, without any invisible strings or mirrors - only with their hearts, brains and hands. Promoting humane education and spay and neuter, the organization's efforts to build a facility for the county's homeless animals has now been completed, and this has been done with intangibles, which materialized over the years, growing the building fund as well as over 1000 animals spay and neutered and citizen empowerment through humane education.
Formed in 2002, ECAS started small, holding public hearings in the county's three major towns - Atlanta, the county seat, Hillman and Lewiston. Organizers came from a wide variety of backgrounds - a newspaper editor, local business owners, high school students and private citizens. This last group, often hesitant to involve themselves in other groups, participated in the shelter's beginnings because they recognized the need for animals' voices in the county. This group includes a print setter, a nursing home caregiver, a hotel housekeeper, a sawmill worker as well as many retired citizens, including an autoworker and union negotiator, an elementary school art teacher, an insurance company secretary and college instructor. They have donated their talents in budgets, organization, education, spay and neuter as well as grant writing, fundraising and plain old "back power" as they pick up furniture for the shelter's annual garage sale, haul a four-wheeler for a yearly raffle to and from from various county events, and roll out itsy, bitsy dog treats to sell at local functions. Additionally, they contribute art work for a yearly Christmas appeal and give hours of grant writing efforts. They use their intangible talents to create tangible results.
Attaining 501 C3 status, creating a board, writing articles of incorporation, the group relied on the expertise of its members. Then came the difficult part: dealing with an established tradition concerning animal control in the community. The organization's first problem: the county Sheriff's Department housed all stray dogs. A dealer would take any dogs not claimed, selling them to research facilities. County residents didn't like this, but there was no alternative with the local government in control and stretched for funds until the ECAS Board approached the county with a plan:
If the group became responsible for getting these dogs adopted, returned to owners or transferred to rescue groups as well as always providing open kennels for intake and donating all the food for the Sheriff's Department's shelter, would the county cease letting these dogs go to a dealer? "Yes" was the reply, and with one plea in the newspaper, the dog food started coming in; sometimes there was more than 1100 pounds in storage. All donated by community members. ECAS had engaged the public and continues to do so, encouraging retirement or birthday parties where the presents are donations for the shelter from food, to collars, to leashes, to shelter and bedding. They also have a solid partnership with the Sheriff's Department.
The next step in establishing a shelter in the community's consciousness was not only listening to human supporters but four-legged ones, too. With a cooperative liaison with the Sheriff's Department, puppies abandoned are not put in the unheated, outdoor shelter, but ECAS is notified, and the puppies go to temporary safe houses until properly vaccinated. A medical fund, contributions coming from recycling ink cartridges, helps homeless animals in ill health.
And the voice of these canine friends is heard every week in a column with space donated by the local paper. In it, one of the abandoned dogs at the Sheriff's Dept. speaks, explaining the situation he/she is in and conjecturing why: not sterilized and quite the ladies' man, no tags and without a sense of good direction, or a responsible mother, who underfed, seeks a better home for her puppies. Fiction perhaps but all fiction is based on non-fiction; these stories put a face and voice to the homeless. The column has become one of the first items the public looks at in the weekly paper and is one of the most-read columns.
The next stage in the organization's building was to tackle the cat issue - with cat colonies, fed by well-meaning citizens, a poor population, and far rural distances to travel, ECAS found a veterinarian with a mobile clinic willing to travel to the county's remote locations. Arriving in his clinic with his wife - a licensed vet tech, he can perform fifteen spays a day and neuter as male cats as ECAS rounds up. Since Spring of 2006, ECAS has "fixed" over 500 cats with our mobile clinics. As with all the organization's efforts, ECAS asks the owner to pay something - it gives the pet value, but if the pet parent is unable, no one is turned away.
The organization also offers low cost spay and neuter of dogs through another successful grant opportunity. In the past five years, over 500 dogs have been sterilized through the group's efforts.The new shelter building will have its own spay and neuter clinic, funded through a grant, which will concentrate on spaying and neutering the area's canines.
The next building foundation stone is humane education; with a retired teacher and her dog Happy, who is in training to be a certified companion dog. The organization also has created a website, maintained and updated weekly with all information about the group and its events. From the Pet of the Week, to the next meeting, to the Board minutes, the website is the group's "virtual" shelter. It also offers opportunities for people to help ECAS through online shopping and donations. Additionally, the organization sends out a newsletter four times a year to members and contributors. A yearly Christmas mailing to all county box-holders generates donations, and with successful grant writing, ECAS has funded educational programs and spay and neuter. Board members attend yearly conferences, paying for registration from their own pockets.
While Elk Country Animal Shelter waited for the physical shelter to be remodeled, it established itself as an advocate for humane education and animal welfare in the Montmorency County Michigan community, and with the information network of newsletters, spokespersons and the website, the organization has created a shelter in the public's minds.
The final building foundation block is the fundraising for the shelter. How does ECAS solicit funds from a county with an average income below the state's average? Well, it has put itself at every public function in the area; its volunteers solicit donations successfully. ECAS has dinners, silent auctions, a raffle, golf outings, and relies on the talents of members. Every penny a schoolchild donates, every five - dollar check a senior citizen writes, every dollar ECAS collects goes to help care for the animals housed at the shelter. ECAS has pure dedication, committed people, animal power and the belief that the Elk Country Animal Shelter can sustain a facility.
We always have a selection of sweatshirts, regular and hooded plus T-shirts with our logo on them as well as Raise the Woof clothing. If interested, contact Pauline. We are continuing the process of raising funds that will enable us to better care for homeless animals in our community. Donations are greatly appreciated and needed to continue the process to maintain the shelter and care for homeless animals. If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to help the shelter continue with our good work, please send a check to the following address: Elk Country Animal Shelter P.O. Box 434 Atlanta, MI 49709.