Blue Mountain Humane Society Gets Involved in Community

Photo by Rachael Barton

The Blue Mountain Humane Society in Walla Walla is about to celebrate its 46th anniversary. According to its website, its mission for almost 46 years has been to encourage kindness toward all animals in the community.

Sarah Archer, the executive director of the Humane Society, has worked there for eight years now. Since she joined the team, adoption numbers have nearly doubled.

“Being an executive director is a pretty multifaceted role. It requires wearing a lot of hats,” she said. “I try to be an inspirational leader for the staff, a fundraiser, a cheerleader, an advocate for animal welfare, a bookkeeper, a counselor and a poop scooper. It’s pretty much whatever needs to be done.”

Despite the heavy work load, Archer truly loves her job.

“One of the fun things about being in a leadership role in a nonprofit is that every day is different,” she said.

The Humane Society puts no limit on how long they keep animals. Sometimes when animals are there for a long time, staff members take them home, but most of the animals are waiting to be adopted by community members.

The adoption process is fairly simple. An application must be filled out, but the Humane Society is quite reasonable when it comes to trusting the citizens of Walla Walla.

“Our adoption process honors the belief that people are basically good. More often than not, people come through our doors because they genuinely have a passion for the human-animal bond,” said Archer.

The bond that Whitman students in particular have with the animals is very helpful for both the shelter and the students themselves.

“In the summer, you can’t know how much we miss that energy and that enthusiasm. It really makes a difference. I love how on any given Friday afternoon there’s a whole flock of people who come in and it’s so win-win. It’s great for us, it’s great for the animals and it’s great for the students,” said Archer.

First-year Spencer Thomas is one of the frequent visitors to the Humane Society that has been going about twice a week since she arrived.

“I just really miss my dog and I love animals, so I decided to go one day with a friend who goes a lot. You can walk the dogs, which is really important because they basically don’t get let out unless volunteers go. You can clean their kennels out and throw balls for them. It’s a good place. I know that,” she said.

Photo by Rachael Barton

Volunteers and donations are crucial to the survival of this nonprofit organization. The staff’s commitment to creating a great environment for the animals is fantastic, but can be costly. They responsibly make sure that all the animals are spayed or neutered, current on their shots and microchipped before they can be adopted.

“Volunteers are involved in every aspect of our operations, with the exception of surgery, from exercising pets to just socializing the animals to make sure that they’re keeping that human-animal bond strong, to helping in the office and filing. We have volunteers earn our trust to the point that they answer the phone and help with customers,” said Archer.

For students who want to get more involved, there is a volunteer orientation. The orientation is unnecessary for anyone who wants to go to the shelter, but required if volunteers want to take the animals elsewhere. For example, orientated students may take dogs on walks downtown with vests that say “Adopt me” or even just take the dogs on a run through the hills.

“There’s no such thing as too many volunteers or a dog that gets walked too much at this time of year. There’s always some positive benefit to that interaction,” said Archer.

The Humane Society also has a unique program that pairs dogs with inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary. The dogs live in the same quarters as the inmates, so they are with them 24/7, and the inmates keep journals on the dogs’ behavior. They get to spend 8 to 10 weeks training the dogs in basic obedience to make them more adoptable. In order to graduate, the dogs have to pass a “canine good citizen test.”

The program allows both the dogs and inmates to create positive relationships.

“It’s had a powerful impact on the lives of both the offenders and the dogs,” said Archer. “When we go to a graduation at the penitentiary, there’s not a dry eye in the place. I’ve received some of the most heart-wrenching letters from some of the inmates who have said watching the dogs learn to change their behavior has inspired them to change their behavior. I choose to believe that that’s the truth … that lives are being transformed. And that’s just so cool.”

More recently they have started sending cats to the penitentiary as well. The program is now affectionately referred to as “Kitties in the Clink.”

The Humane Society offers a lot to the community. They go above and beyond their goal of preventing cruelty and promoting kindness. The organization has created a Halloween program called “Dog-a-ween,” which is when the Human Society will go downtown to pass out dog treats for kids to take home to their puppies.

Photo by Rachael Barton

However, their primary goal is still finding homes for animals in need.

“We provide a safe environment for animals; there’s no question. But the shelter is no place for an animal. They get cared for, but that’s not what they’re meant for. They’re meant to be in homes with us. Our goal is always to get them placed in homes,” said Archer.

Thomas believes that all the animals deserve a good home.

“There’re a few funny ones. There’s one named Molly that is very funny-looking and I don’t think she gets out much, so I take her. They’re all really great dogs. If you just start petting them and give them some space, then they’ll start loving you,” said Thomas.

The Humane Society is open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Invite anyone who is missing his or her [pet] at home to come over and get their fur fix,” said Archer.




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