Good Shepherd Humane Society is a private shelter located in deep in the Arkansas Ozarks. It serves the Carroll County area, including Berryville, Green Forest, and Eureka Springs. Founded in the 70s it is the only “legacy” animal welfare organization in the area. Good Shepherd operates as a no-kill facility. They also provide low-cost spay and neuter services and are working hard on outreach and shelter diversion.
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Good Shepherd Humane Society is a private shelter located deep in the Arkansas Ozarks. It serves the Carroll County area, including Barry Bill, Green Forest, and Eureka Springs. Founded in the seventies, it is the only “legacy” animal welfare organization in the area. Good Shepherd operates as a no-kill facility, and they also provide low-cost spay and neuter services and are working hard on outreach and shelter diversion.
Hi, Cole. Welcome to the show. I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having me. You’re very welcome. We’re happy to have you. So you’re the Director of Animal Operations at the Good Shelter Humane Society in Arkansas. Is that right? Yeah. Good Shepherd Humane Society in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, up in the Ozark Mountains. Oh, wow. Okay. Well, can you tell us a little bit about your organization and how you got started there. We’ve been around since the 70’s, is when Good Shepherd was founded. And then the current building that we’re in now was built in the late 80’s. I just started here late last year, coming from another organization in Arkansas. We really enjoy being here. Enjoy our location. We’re in one of those beautiful parts of the country, one of the most beautiful little towns in the country.
Can you share with me a little bit about your community? Is it pretty supportive? What are some of the struggles that you guys face and also the animals? Well, we service Carroll County, Arkansas, which gives us a pretty wide variety of the community to serve. But we were found in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which is a historic Victorian village in the Ozarks, which it sounds weird, but it’s here, and it’s actually really cool and really neat town. Lots of artists and interesting people and great shops and great places to stay. So that is a high tourist focus. Lots of retired people who come here and just let us spend the rest of their days in this wonderful environment that we have here. So that’s one part of our constituency, where we get a lot of our support and a lot of help from. On the other side of the county, we have largely, more rural and some factory based food processing, more traditional Southern clientele. So we have kind of a split mission and how we have to do outreach because we have two very different areas to serve. It’s awesome. And I mean, when you were kind of describing like a historical side and it’s got that Victorian vibe to it and then you switch to a rural I mean, I can definitely see how your outreach would have to be almost completely flipped from one side to the other. You know, there’s that sort of slight tension that’s always existed between these different sides of the county. One thing we have to do is that whether you are working at a meat processing plant or you are retired in a Victorian home, everybody loves dogs and cats. So we hope that we’re able to help unify the county and help everybody come together with an understanding of developing the best animal welfare organization that we can.
That actually led me down to my next question. Do you guys take in just dogs or dogs and cats? Or how does that look for you guys? We are dogs and cats. We don’t have an animal control contract anymore with anyone, so we’re actually a private shelter. So we take in, largely owner surrenders. And then we do do some sort of pressure valve releasing, for some of the local shelters. Animal control shelters. So how is it for the animals in your area? Do you notice that you guys have a lot of strays, like overpopulation being an issue? What is one of the things that animals struggle with within your community? A lot of the same, that communities all around the country are dealing with. We do deal with strays and homeless animals. Also, certain number of owner surrenders, animal abandonment. When people are dealing with tough situations that they don’t know how to handle, you know, having to move or maybe not being able to afford care. So those are all areas that we’re trying to focus on. But you know, the challenges here are the same challenges that most of the South face and has to do with the developing comprehensive animal welfare and shelter diversion and getting out there and realizing that we all need to work together and proactively, for the pets.
I always like to ask, what are some of the struggles that the animals are facing in your community because it’s very different and not even just states, the cities within the states are struggling with and what the differences are for animals and for people. So I find it very interesting to ask that question. Kind of get to know your area a little bit better. You know, we definitely, the area leans on the oversupply side. We don’t have enough animals that are spayed and neutered. We’re working hard to do that. But we do have several great rescues, smaller rescues, in the county that are doing a lot of work to help alleviate that, and that makes it easier on us as sort of the anchor shelter. We’re not dealing with quite as much as we would be without these rescues. We have one called Unconditional Love Pet Rescue, On the Radar Rescue, out of Maryville. And so it’s one of the things that we are definitely an oversupply County. There’s definitely a lot of work to do with getting out there and helping address those problems. But for a rural county in Arkansas, we’re probably more developed in our resources than most. Not to say that we don’t need more. I love hearing that you guys work with other organizations in your area, to kind of tackle those struggles that you guys face. It’s always great to hear when you guys are working together on that. It’s a great thing. That’s an important thing for us, and that’s something that we’ve pushed over this last year is really getting out there and trying to figure out what the basic needs are and getting out and figure out what the basic resources are because the reality is that the stray dog and cat issue doesn’t stop at county lines or city lines. You know this is a regional issue. We can reduce redundancy and resources and become better and more efficient, working together with what we have, we can save a lot more and serve a lot more. Yes, absolutely. I agree with that 100%.
Do you guys put on any type of events or fundraisers to kind of help with your funding? Or maybe you guys offer certain programs to kind of keep your community involved. Yes, you know, we have two traditional big fundraising events every year. One of them is called Diamonds and Denim. It was scheduled for May or April, I can’t remember, but it was scheduled that it got canceled, because of COVID. That was a big fundraiser for us, and we were also just have sort of developed a community engagement program where we were going to be in a lot of festivals and a lot of different events going on, trying to leverage the tourist angle in Eureka Springs, so that we could help educate that crowd and also develop some fundraising around that. But all that got put on hold, though, we’ll be jumping back onto that, quickly. That’s definitely hard, and it’s a struggle going on everywhere. You know, everybody’s events are having to be put on hold. You know, I talked with an organization where all of their, they cancelled all the events, for the entire year, just because of planning and everything. So it’s a tough time and, you know, I hope that you guys are able to get those events rescheduled, hopefully as best you can.
But what are some of the struggles that you guys, as an organization, face before the pandemic? And then now, currently, now that you guys are experiencing the pandemic right now? The large struggle we faced before the pandemic was just trying to figure out and develop a program to help us with the rural outreach and trying to get into other parts of the county and to reach some demographics that we have been able to. We were working hard on developing that and trying to figure that out when COVID happened. Even though we serve the county as a whole, our largest chunk of funding comes from our fish stores and the largest one of those is in Eureka Springs, and both of those had to be closed down. So that was a big you know, our income that we count on, that was gone. And then, of course, we lost the fundraiser, you know, and then we count on a lot of the businesses that are supported by tourism, in the county, to help us and support us throughout the year and now they’re also all struggling because tourism has been shut down. So, you know, that’s pretty daunting. So while we’re dealing with that, we’re also watching the communities that we serve, including Eureka, but the other communities, including Berryville, are watching their manufacturers shut down. You know, they’re dealing with their own financial struggles, so we’ve gotta figure out how we can help that. I think the last thing anybody wants is people having to start, you know, seeing a bunch of owner surrenders because people are struggling. So we pretty quickly opened up food banks, pet food banks. We have just received a large donation the month before. All this happened from Merrick. So luckily, we had a surplus of food. We also get some regular donations from other community sources. And so we set those food bank ups, and I think that we’ve been able to and I know for a fact that some people keep asking us for their animals. So now we’re just looking long term into how we are going to find what we need. So that’s through several emergency grants. And, you know, even though we’ve lost one of our big fundraisers, the second one’s in November and hopefully, that will continue. And then we’re gonna be looking at doing smaller, some more line based fundraisers and other ways to fill those gaps. But we’re gonna take a hit just like everybody else. So we’re doing our best to continue to function with that.
Staying positive right now is a tough thing, but it seems like you guys are very on top of that. You know, I think one of the great things that you also mentioned is you guys are going to try and do some online events and everything of that nature. And I feel like that’s a positive thing that’s kind of coming out of this pandemic. It’s kind of allowing all of us to think out of the box, you know, like, how are we gonna make this work with the current situation we’re in? And so I love that you guys are going down that route and trying to figure out how you can still engage people and just kind of be involved as best you can. I mean, you know, you can’t have gatherings or fundraisers or anything of that nature right now, so I love that you guys are doing that. I also love that you guys are really encouraging the people of your community to keep their pets, by providing them with pet food and as many resources as you guys can provide, because that’s most important right now. I think a lot of us are struggling with day to day and let alone, you know, having to feed our animals. So I think that it’s great that you guys are really trying to work with the people of your community. Yeah, I mean, that’s important. That’s the thing I don’t feel like and we don’t want anybody to feel like they have to give up a four-legged family member, simply because things have gotten a little tough. So you know, there’s, that’s the emotional side of it. And the practical side of it is, it’s a lot cheaper to give somebody pet food than them taking their animal to a shelter. You know, it works out and everybody’s favor, and it’s the best thing for the animal. I agree.
So one of the things that I didn’t even ask you at the beginning was, you guys actually have a physical building, correct? Right. Okay, perfect. So you mentioned at the beginning of the podcast also that you were with another organization before you came to be a part of your current one, the Good Shepherd Humane Society. How did that come about? How did you get to where you are now? Was being in an animal welfare industry always something that you wanted to do? Or is this just something that landed and now you love it, and that’s what you do every day? Yeah, it’s definitely not something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s not something if you came to me even two or three years ago and said, this is what you’ll be doing, I would not have understood what you meant. No, I’ve always liked dogs and cats, and I’ve always had pets growing up, but it was never really a passion. It started out, I was working at the old facility that I was that was, Arkansas and I started there just because I was looking for work and I found a job. And I started out working in their clinic, mainly a pet field tech, and that’s where I just really started to fall in love with what I was doing.
I have, just like everybody else, I have that one animal story, that sort of changed everything. And that was a dog, a young dog that had come in completely emaciated, on death’s doorstep. That I did all the forcing NeutraCall and fluids. And I remember that dog first bit me, I was so happy because it finally had the energy to tell me, you know, to object, but that meant it was getting better. And once I was able to nurse that dog back to health and got him out, you know, it got adopted to a great family. I remember like that was the moment I said, Wow, this is great! This is what I want to do. I could make a difference here. That was at a large organization with an animal control contract, so we saw all sorts of stuff, good and bad, but I know that we were able to save lives and change lives. That organization went through some stress and some problems, and it actually after, I think had been around 70 years, but it ended up shutting down. And then I kind of wandered aimlessly, for a month or so, trying to find something and the job up here opened up and it was a dream job, in a dream location. So I jumped at the chance and it has been no regrets.
Awesome. Isn’t it funny how you start somewhere and to your point, you’re like if you had told me this is what I’d be doing a few years ago, I never would have believed you. I find that these stories are just awesome. You know what? You’re right. A lot of times you find that one particular animal or that one specific memory that just kind of makes it, this is what I want to do, you know? I love that you shared that because I feel like animals really, truly do make a difference in our lives. And they touch us in some of the most heartfelt ways. And I don’t know if I’ve had the same experience about being happy to be bit, but, you know. It wasn’t a bad bite. It was more like a nip. But it was the first time that he had shown any real interest in what was happening to him because he had enough energy to care. But I always tell people, you know, I was 37 when I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Well, that’s a good thing. Almost it gives people hope like, hey, it could happen at any time. And I think I can tell by talking to you, you’re very enthusiastic and passionate about what you’re doing, and that’s what makes working in this industry worthwhile, is we need people like that. They’re gonna be able to handle the ups and the downs because let’s face it, this industry is not easy to work in, right? No, it has its challenges. I know that we deal constantly with compassion fatigue. I think in all of these you definitely have an emotional toll that this work can take. And I think a lot of people who aren’t involved, don’t really understand that. And I’m just happy that I’ve had a really supportive family, lots of friends and people who have, even when I’ve had those moments of, where they could tell where, you know, I mean a mental health check just because of the emotional weight. You know, I’ve had that support and that’s really helped me out in those moments when you know you’ve done well, can kind of always help those darker moments.
But this is a tough business, and you can’t do it without passion. And you can’t do it without love and care if you’ve got a temperate. I mean, I think that’s the great challenge. It takes passion to do it. But also, passion can also drive you over the edge, too. If you, you know, I think that’s what that is. You know, that’s a lot of times, just people’s passion drives to the point of being irrational. And when you’re dealing with lives, which is what we are, we have to realize that it’s not about us. It’s not about us feeling good about ourselves. It’s about these lives that are in our hands. You know, about how these animals feel, and so that could be tough to do because you know you want to feel good, you want to be the hero, you want to save everybody. But the reality is that that’s just not possible. And when you do that when you try to take that stance that you are just gonna, you know, there’s nothing bad is ever gonna happen to the animal that is in my care, that usually means something bad is gonna happen to every animal in your care. Because you’re not addressing things in a practical and realistic manner. Yeah, it’s tough. And I think you put it very well. You know, it’s not just hey, I’m gonna wake up this morning, put my clothes on, go to work and save every animal I can today. You know, there’s a whole bunch more that goes into it, and I give all of you guys massive props. You know, you guys see the worst of things that come through those doors. But you also see the great happy moments that just make everything worthwhile.
And, you know, I’m kind of curious because you said just a few years ago, you never would have imagined yourself in this position and doing what you’re doing. How do you currently explain to people what it’s like to work in an animal shelter? You know, one of the things I tell people is so when you take your dog to the vet, you and the vet are making decisions for your dog. What’s best for your dog? What’s best for this animal right now, you know, you’re not worried about the animal in the next room, not worried about how that decision is gonna affect other animals. You know it’s about your pet and that your loved one. The decisions that we make in animal shelters and animal welfare rescues, they affect every animal. Every decision I make here, ripples off to every stray, or potential stray, in Carroll County. So we can’t make decisions just for the individual dog or cat. We have to make decisions for everybody and that metric changes. You know, we have to consider things that if I was dealing with my cat, the cost issue may not be as big of a deal, as we’re dealing with illnesses and dealing with animals in our care, because for every dollar we spend on one animal, that’s a dollar that we can’t spend somewhere else. And does that affect this one or does it affect 10 or 20 or 30 on down the road? And that could be tough. You have to change your way of thinking, you know, some people can do it. And some people, it drives them crazy. Yeah. No, but it’s definitely a very valid point, and it’s very realistic to think about that. You know, we take our animals to the vet, it’s just one animal. We’re not making a decision for a bunch of them, so definitely you’ve got a tough decision. And I think every decision you make has to be very well thought out. So I think that it’s great that you acknowledge that and you know that that’s something that you have to do in this industry and in your specific position, you know, so that’s awesome. There’s a different way of thinking about things, you know. You see it even in, you know, animal professionals. I think you, sometimes you see it in veterinarians or vet techs. You know, when they come from a private practice into a rescue or shelter now, so they call it Shelter Medicine, even those, even that basic stuff that you think would be the same between a private practice office and a place like ours, it’s not. And some vets and vet techs, who had a lot of education, have a hard time with even adapting to it.
So Cole, what is your organization and what do you have in the works for 2020 and then even 2021? Because you know, we’re still in that little gray area of COVID, but do you guys have any big plans for your organization in the near future? Yeah, we do. You know, a lot of the stuff that we were planning on doing this year is just kind of getting pushed off, but we do hope to return to it. That includes establishing a TNR program. Eureka Springs to pilot that. But maybe we move further into the county and then inside the county, getting our humane education program up and running, doing community outreach, getting out in the community. The food banks are something that we were looking at, that we kind of just went ahead and pushed forward quicker because of what was going on. So we want to further develop that. But the idea is we’re just being from, you know, we were a “legacy” shelter organization. We’re here as a shelter, and we will continue to do that. But we’re moving more focused on that community outreach, doing shelter diversion to trying to figure out its problems beforehand, to keeping people from ever having to, literally, we want to become the safety net, the last chance, you know, this is it. They’ve tried to rehome. We have fixed the hole in the fence. We provided the food. Okay? The situation just, this animal has no other choice. Then it comes to us and then we quickly re-adopt.
So we’re just sort of shifting focus, in that direction so that we can do what’s best for the pet and the people. And keep them out of the shelter. No. And I think that those were some great programs that you guys have in your sights. And, you know, I really, truly hope, that once the world gets back to what’s gonna be probably considered as the new “normal”, that you guys will be able to really get going on those and just kind of grow as an organization and grow to be that resource for your guys’ community. To just kind of help out, you know, ensure that the pets are staying in their homes. And if they are stray, they find good loving homes to stay there forever, you know? Right. That’s the plan. I mean, I think I’m a practical person and I try and be pragmatic, but I do think these problems are solvable, but I think the problem of unnecessary euthanasia is solvable. The problem of homeless pets is solvable, but it is going to be a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to do it. You can’t do it just in a shelter. You can’t do it just with spay-neuter. You can’t do it just with food banks or a rescue or transport, but they’re all part of a puzzle, that we have to put together, to make work.
I think that we can, you know, and one of the things that it’s an interesting story, here in Carroll County. So there are three cities in Carroll County. There’s Eureka Springs, which is the big tourist and retirement center of 2000 plus year-round residents. Berryville, I think, which is our county seat, has around 5000 and then Green Forest has two or 3000. So Green Forest is a small, rural city in the Ozarks of Arkansas. And what they’ve been able to do, with little to no help from the outside, is they have been able to run an animal control operation out of that city, on their own, with the city and using in conjunction with a rescue, that is attached to the city. You know that works for the city. They have been a no-kill operation, in Green Forest, Arkansas for two years, and that is a rural, A typical community, that we would not see that as. So I feel like, you know, if Green Forest, with the limited resources they have, have been able to do that, then we can. You know, spread that to this whole county and get all the Ozarks, get this whole region the same way. These problems can be solved. you just have to work. Yeah, I know. And that’s awesome that they were able to do that. You know, now that it’s not really a focus point. But it’s something that you are seeing like, Hey, we could do this too, you know, everybody works together and we couldn’t get to our goals. So I truly have enjoyed our conversation. And I love what you guys were doing over there in your passion. And just I think what I’ve taken from talking to you and about how you see things, you seem like a very practical person and I see high hopes for you guys. And I think that you’re gonna play a big role and your organization gets that growth with your programs, overall, Just anything that you guys have in your sight.
So if any of our listeners want to help out, whether they’re in that area and wanna volunteer or donate, how can they get in contact with you? What’s the best way? Of course we’re on Facebook. GoodShepherdHumaneSociety on Facebook, Eureka Springs. Our website is goodshepherd-hs.org. You can find us on both of those places. You also give us a call. The office 479-253-9188 And we appreciate any and all support. Especially now. We’ve had a couple of online fundraisers that have done really well, and we hope you continue to do that. We have an amazing community. This whole area is right on. You have a lot of support, and that’s why we’re able to do what we’re able to do. We hope to continue to do that and continue to help to establish ourselves as a leader and positive, proactive animal welfare, and a bullet. Yes, and I see high hopes, and I can’t wait to check-in in the future and see how you guys are doing. Well, I look forward to it. Hopefully we will continue to have good news and good progress. I have every confidence that we will, and hopefully, we can do some things that can be developed and be modeled. Then we can just want to spread what we’re doing. Yes, I think you guys will do just fine in that. I think that you guys were doing an awesome job with everything you guys have going now. And like I said, I can’t wait to see what the future holds and check back in and see if you guys got those new programs in your sights going. That’s great.
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