Lyn Gensamer, the Executive Director of the Humane Society, addressed us on Wednesday morning.

Lyn is a graduate of Washington University, a former member of staff of Ralston Purina, and a one time owner of her own marketing business. Lyn came to Savannah in 2006 to lead the Humane Society. Lyn thanked Rotarians for inviting her to speak, and told us that her diverse experiences before joining the Humane Society have all been useful. There are a number of Animal Welfare groups in and around Chatham County, such as Animal Control, which takes animals from the streets, from dangerous situations, there are sanctuaries which have a total ‘no kill’ policy, there are institutions which take any animal. The Savannah Humane Society takes only animals that are ‘companion animals’ and that are dropped off by their owners because they cannot keep them.

Founded in 1952, the Society took in 3,500 pets in 2011. It receives no municipal funds nor any support from the Humane Society of the U.S. It has 20 employees and 300 volunteers. It is open to the public 7 days a week. Over the last few years the Society has become up-to-date in its practices, professional, and computer friendly. It has adopted the ASPCA adoption model, which means educating people about keeping animals. “If,” Lyn said, “We let only those with experience and know-how adopt animals, we wouldn’t get many adoptions.” People need to be told about animal health, obedience, training, feeding, etc., in order for adoptions to be successful. The Society’s software keeps track of all the dogs brought to them. The Society holds a number of special events. Opportunities for individuals wishing to have direct involvement include:
Community Service: allows those wishing to offer such service, including schools which require their pupils to do community service, to perform tasks with the animals.
Shelter Enrichment: volunteers play and walk the animals to maintain their sociability.
Fostering: Families can “adopt” a dog for a period of time, or weekends, (“weekend play dates”) to help the animal through the boredom of the kennel. This suits some families who cannot keep a permanent pet because of travel, etc. The Society also holds fund raisers, including the most successful ASPCA competition last year with on-line voting, when an additional 400 pets were adopted in this community.

The Humane Society runs a business. Each animal that comes in is given a serious assessment for sociability; 90% have had no veterinary care, and many are not spayed or neutered. The Society aims to open a community low-cost spay/neuter clinic. It aims to balance its budget by 2012-2013; last year its deficit was $84,000. This year, so far, it is running on budget. The only reason it can keep going in face of deficits is because people have left money to the Society; in this context Lyn paid tribute to member Lloyd Wood and his late wife Judy, whose kind generosity allowed the Society to buy an automatic tag machine.

Last year the Society started the Jail Dog Program; there are two other such programs in Georgia. The aim is to address recidivism among inmates. The dogs are borderline adoptable, some have medical problems; they are given to non-violent inmates, live with them in their cells, spend all day with them; it provides respite for the dogs, and they are taught to walk on the leash and obey simple commands. The pictures shown suggested a strong bond often develops between the inmates and the animals.The Society runs a highly successful Thrift Shop; we are encouraged to drop off saleable items we do not want, and to browse the shop for items for our animals or ourselves.