ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Animal Rescue League is not going away, but it says changing the scope of services offered was necessary in order to stay financially viable.
While the organization issued a news release that states it remains dedicated to helping Belmont County’s animals, it noted the community support wasn’t sufficient to continue current operations.
“This was a difficult decision and it was purely financially based. We’re the oldest animal welfare organization in Belmont County. We have not lost our passion for helping and serving the animals. We simply don’t have the finances to continue as we have been the past three years,” said MaryEllen Gust, a member of the board of directors.
Leadership cited a few examples to highlight the financial issues:
Every animal that came into the rescue center was in crisis, which meant higher vet bills and often additional training in order to allow them to be adopted responsibly. Each animal rescued meant a loss of revenue since adoption fees never actually matched the rehabilitation costs.
COVID not only created an influx of rescue cases, but it also eliminated the possibility of face-to-face fundraising events which were the lifeblood of fundraising efforts in the past.
The $10,000 stipend from the county commissioners via this past year’s memorandum of understanding for humane officer services covered less than 1/3 of the officer’s pay.
The rescue center’s operating costs averaged $25,000 each month.
There are far more animal welfare agencies in Belmont County than in other counties, and while that is good for the animals, it spreads out animal-related fundraising across more organizations, leaving agencies competing for dollars.
After the last MOU expired, BCARL notified the Belmont County commissioners that they voted not to renew.
BCARL then notified local law enforcement. Per Ohio Revised Code, the task of responding to humane complaints will now fall to the sheriff’s department and local law enforcement.
Over the next few months, BCARL will work diligently to get animals adopted or sent to rescues to continue their rehabilitation and await adoption.
Gust says it has been a difficult road.
“We want to thank all of our volunteers, adopters, and partnering rescue organizations. Further, we want to extend our thanks to those who did attend fundraisers and donated to support us financially. You enabled us to do such important work for the past three years. Most importantly, we want to thank our employees who worked diligently to rescue, rehab, and re-home these animals from cases of abandonment, abuse, and/or neglect,” she added.
In the future, BCARL hopes to continue offering some type of services to the community in the form of emergency vet care assistance, spay and neuter programs, etc. There will be continuing updates in the coming months.
Statistics for consideration – From July 2019 – June 30, 2022
– $371,499 employee expenses
– $172,853 medical care for animals in crisis
– $73,919 in facility utilities and maintenance
– $43,540 in animal food and cleaning supplies
– Safety for 794 animals;
– New homes for 575 animals;
– Followed up on 987 humane calls; and
– Transferred 120 animals to partnering rescues.
BCARL currently has 101 animals in its care at the rescue facility. The vast majority are cats, kittens and rabbits.