Organizations that focus on helping those who don’t have a home or are in ill health serve an important role in a community because of the safety net they provide. Even for animals.

The Bartholomew County Humane Society is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and continues in its mission to find homes and provide humane treatment for animals.

That is significant, because attitudes that pets are disposable objects still exist.

Before some people answered a call to action and the Bartholomew County Humane Society incorporated June 15, 1966, the city had a pound where residents could deposit any type of animal into a pen, making for terrible living conditions for the unwanted and discarded pets.

Fortunately, the situation has improved because of the Humane Society and its mission, meeting a significant and growing need in the community.

Two women have been especially instrumental in the Humane Society’s role: Cheryl Zuckschwerdt-Ellsbury, a board member for all but four years, and Jane Iwrin, shelter manager for more than four decades. They have helped drive the organization’s great growth.

Consider some of the significant differences over the Humane Society’s time as a community resource.

The society’s first shelter, which opened in 1971, had eight dog kennels, four cat cages and a small office. Its second shelter increased to 2,400 square feet, allowing more animals to be housed. Two years ago, the Humane Society moved into a $1.5 million, 8,000-square-foot facility at 4415 E. County Road 200S. Besides sheltering animals, the new facility has:

  • A surgery room and recovery area
  • A training area
  • A community education room
  • Two family greeting rooms

Those services allow for an interactive role with the community through training and education programs.

Education is important, because some residents still view animals as disposable — particularly cats, shelter staff said. More cats are admitted into the shelter than dogs. Of the 200 animals the shelter cares for daily, 125 of them are cats. Each feline stays at the shelter an average of a year.

While finding animals a new home remains a main goal, the Humane Society has found itself with some new and growing challenges:

  • Providing help to struggling families for food or vaccines for their pets, so they can keep the animals.
  • Geriatric dogs suffering from illnesses, physical ailments or behavioral problems.

While new challenges continually crop up for the Humane Society, what’s reassuring is that time and again the society over the decades has adapted and responded in ways to ensure that unwanted animals receive good care and best efforts are made to find them new homes.

The community has benefited greatly from the Humane Society’s efforts and services. Fewer homeless animals roam the streets and more families have experienced the joy of owning a pet.

Those who have contributed to the Humane Society’s goals, whether as a staff member or volunteer, are to be commended for their efforts with a valuable and worthy organization.