Winona Area Humane Society talks staffing shortage

WAHS+is+operating+by+appointment+only+and+all+adoption+applicants%2C+as+well+as+surrenders+of+cats+and+dogs%2C+must+be+pre-approved.+Dog+visits+are+also+being+done+outside+currently%2C+according+to+their+Facebook+page.

Carolyn Hauschild

WAHS is operating by appointment only and all adoption applicants, as well as surrenders of cats and dogs, must be pre-approved. Dog visits are also being done outside currently, according to their Facebook page.

Erich Schweitzer, news reporter

A recent shortage of staff and volunteers at the Winona Area Humane Society (WAHS) has caused a strain on operations. The shortage has forced the few staff members there to take on extra duties to keep their organization in running and in business.

WAHS Dog Director, Shanna Maus, said having to take on more roles and tasks has been the most obvious effect of having less staff. With not as many staff members or volunteers, they have been forced to take on other administrative roles to keep things running smoothly, such as facility management and office coordination duties.

WAHS has a short staffing notice on their website causing their shorter business hours. Currently, WAHS is closed on Sundays and Mondays, open 12-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

WAHS is operating by appointment only and all adoption applicants, as well as surrenders of cats and dogs, must be pre-approved. Dog visits are also being done outside currently, according to their Facebook page. Face masks are also required when entering the WAHS building.

Matthew Wilson, the cat director at WAHS, said he believes given circumstances surrounding COVID-19, money has become more important to many people. Since volunteering at WAHS is not a paid gig, there is less incentive for people to apply and offer their help.

The staff shortage is not the only aspect of the local Humane Society that has been affected, however. The pandemic has also affected other parts of their organization such as animal adoptions and surrenders, as well as how they do so while abiding by COVID guidelines.

According to Wilson, “more people were keen on cats” when it came to adopting animals to keep as pets. Since cats tend to be more independent, they are often viewed as lower maintenance and easier to care for than a dog.

However, Maus said there has been “an uptick in dog surrenders.” More people have been giving up their dogs and turning them into the Humane Society and other animal shelters. The economic impact of COVID has contributed to local dog owners’ financially instability regarding taking care of their pets. She has even said that other Humane Societies in the area are running out of kennel space to take on the surge of surrendered dogs.

Still, WAHS offers other services to help people in the community who either want to adopt pets, need assistance in caring for their animals and more. WAHS has a pet food shelf that acts similarly to food shelves for people, so pet owners who cannot afford animal food have somewhere to turn to. People can also donate to the pet food shelf. Even local chains, like Target and Walmart, have donated pallets of pet food they cannot keep or put on shelves.

WAHS, alongside most Humane Society organizations, also teach new owners the basics of how to care for their animals. For example, WAHS has soon-to-be pet owners schedule visits to socialize with available animals prior to adopting to search for the right fit.

When people adopt animals from their shelters, they teach the new owners how to care for each animal. For example, they have the new owners schedule visits to socialize with the dogs they want to adopt.

Community support has been much appreciated and displayed on WAHS’ various social medias, including their Facebook page with nearly 13,000 followers.

There are several ways Winona State students and people in the local area can support WAHS during the ongoing staff shortage and pandemic. The main way to help would be to volunteer at local Winona Humane Society. More information can be found on their website at https://wahs.info or their Facebook page, Winona Area Humane Society.