Rotarian of the week, Sandi Teal, introduced our special guest and speaker, Kaitlyn Hemphill. Kaitlyn is a homegrown zoophile—a person who loves animals. She was reared here in Winnfield and graduated from Winnfield Senior High in 2007. Currently the president of the Heart of Louisiana Humane Society, Kaitlyn has been working with the organization to help animals, particularly dogs, cats and other common pets for 14 years—literally since graduation from high school. This is her calling, her mission, and she works hard. She is, by the way, an unpaid volunteer, and she does this work because she loves animals, not because she receives any financial benefit.
Ms. Hemphill reported on the recent progress of Heart of Louisiana HS in addressing the plight of the numerous stray animals in Winnfield and Winn Parish. They have been very busy due to the high volume of stray and unwanted animals in the area.
In 2020, she and her 20 or so other volunteers have saved 2413 animals. They have taken in, fed, fostered, paid for vetting, vaccinations, spaying/neutering, heartworm treatment and preventative, microchips for those animals. These services and medications cost $100 per animal. They arranged and accomplished 34 transports to California, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, delivering 1519 animals to those states for adoption. Most of the animals went to Pennsylvania—651 dogs, 321 cats and 3 others. California took in 326 dogs and 14 cats, Michigan 131 dogs and Georgia 74 dogs.
The Heart of Louisiana HS also took in, fostered and adopted out 227 dogs and cats last year. Within the Winnfield city limits, the animals are cared for in the city’s animal shelter, and beyond the city, Heart of Louisiana volunteers take in and foster the animals.
Heart of Louisiana also financially assisted 630 people with spaying/neutering of their pets, so the animals will not be indiscriminately reproducing and burdening the community with unwanted animals.
Ms. Hemphill noted that, due to the assistance of Heart of Louisiana HS, only 32 animals—only those which are aggressive or hurt—were euthanized in Winnfield in 2020, and so far in 2021, only 20 have been euthanized. This contrasts greatly with Alexandria, whose shelter euthanizes over 150 animals each week; that’s over 10,000 animals in a year. If Winn Parish did not have the assistance of Heart of LA HS, 25 or 30 animals would be killed here each week—that would amount to between 1300 and 1500 each year.
Kaitlyn explained that the areas accepting transport of animals from our area do not have an overpopulation of domesticated animals, because they have laws requiring registration and sterilization of pets, so the pets there don’t reproduce spontaneously and indiscriminately. The animals accepted from our area are readily adopted once they arrive at their destination because the citizens of those areas want pets and are prepared to take good care of them.
Here, where spaying/neutering is not required by law, many unwanted domesticated animals are born every day. The cat population is especially exploding—kittens are physically able to reproduce at the age of nine weeks, and may be sterilized at that age. They should be spayed/neutered at least by the age of four months. If they are not, they come in heat every two or three weeks, and the chances of conception with any mating are very high. Pregnancy lasts around nine or ten weeks, and your female cat may be re-impregnated within days of delivering a litter. If one cat can produce 20 kittens—a conservative number—in a year, and the cat together with each of her kittens produce the same number on average that year and the next year, thousands of unwanted kittens will have been produced in only a few years. This is why Heart of Louisiana HS works to encourage and assist in the spaying/neutering of any and all domesticated cats, and why it is important for everyone with cats to prevent their reproduction. Spaying/neutering all pet cats is the most effective way to reduce the number of unwanted kittens and feral cats in the area, so call the Heart of Louisiana Humane Society if you need assistance with this.
Heart of LA HS transported 60 cats to Pennsylvania the last week of September. The cost to prepare one cat for transport and adoption in another state is $100 as long as there are no problems or illnesses—including all the items and services listed earlier in this article. For these 60 cats, however, Heart of LA has asked for donations of $20 per cat from anyone who is willing to help these animals get to a new home. This will help cover the cost of food and some of the vaccines needed.
Ms. Hemphill, during the “question and answer” part of the presentation, noted that the responsibilities of Heart of LA HS do NOT include going out into the parish to get dangerous animals. The City of Winnfield’s Animal Control officer is tasked with doing so within the city limits, but there is no parish official or other organization designated to pick up dangerous animals outside the city. The volunteers of the Humane Society are neither trained nor responsible for doing so. If an animal is thought to be a hazard to people or property outside the city, one should NOT call the Humane Society. Call someone you know who is experienced in safely capturing such animals.
If you have unwanted animals around, however, contact the Humane Society and they will help you as best they can, if the animal is not dangerous. You should take stray or unwanted animals to them if you can.
At the conclusion of the program, the meeting was adjourned with the Rotary motto, “Service Above Self!”
Pictured above: Rotarian Sandi Teal and Kaitlyn Hemphill