Tacoma Humane Society saves animals through strategic planning & volunteers

The Tacoma & Pierce County Humane Society continues to strive for a better world for animals through their adoption programs and events.

Since the pandemic started in 2020, things haven’t slowed down for the Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County. During the pandemic, the shelter was faced with an influx of animals and shortage of space for them. However, even after the pandemic, things haven’t really slowed down since.  

“Currently, the shelter is doing good with adoptions but that could change any day,” said Lindsey Heaney, Director of Communications and Outreach. “Sometimes we’re low and sometimes we’re over capacity. Generally, when an animal gets adopted, there is always another one right after that them who is in need of a forever home. We are always having to work hard to find homes for animals constantly.” 

Heaney had experience in the veterinary field while studying communications in college. One day, she saw an opportunity to work at the Humane Society and decided to apply for the job. Once hired, she was able to raise awareness about the shelter and help implement initiatives like the “3-year strategic plan.” A plan that promises to assess, develop and implement a strategic well thought out plan to benefit animals within the community, as well as address key issues affecting their well-being.   

“Improving the organization’s culture to create a positive, inclusive, and collaborative work environment within one year is one of our many goals to create an effective, strategic, sustainable plan. Building and implementing an informed trap-neuter-return program based on research and best practices within two years is also a crucial part of it,” according to their website.  

The last event they had at the shelter during the month of October was called Clear the Shelter. It was in partnership with the non-profit organization Bissell Pet Foundation, which aimed to lower or waive the costs of adoption fees so that animals could find homes quickly. 

“The event was a huge success, and all of the dogs and cats we had at the time were adopted,” said Heaney. “It’s a small gesture but we find it makes a hug difference in the number of adoptions we make. This helps people who have room for a pet afford the adopting price.” 

This event, among several others that the Humane Society does annually, was crucial to achieving their 3-year strategic plan.  

No Dog Shall Go Hungry sign in the adoption lobby of the Humane Society. | Photo by Cameron J. Berrens

In addition to this event, they offer services such as low cost spay and neuter assistance, as well as community outreach programs that help educate the public on animal welfare. If people cannot afford to spay or neuter their dog, the shelter is willing to lower or supplement the cost for the person to make it free.  

This is also important for the community as a whole because it lowers the risk of homeless animals reproducing, thus reducing the number of homeless animals in the community. The shelter is aiming to have these clinics available to the public every month.  

“Events and programs like the low-cost pet food assistance program are a vital part of improving the overall quality of the community,” said Heaney. “We are always striving to do our very best when it comes to the care and overall well-being of our animals. To be able to run a shelter, supplement spay and neuter costs, create effective programs and do the job well takes so much effort on our part. For this, we rely on our volunteers and specialized supportive staff to communicate and work these activities.” 

“Having volunteers is vital to the shelter’s operation.”

The Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County currently has over 100 volunteers. They work in positions like bath brigade, dog walking, photography, pet pantry, laundry folding, cat care specialist, animal transport and much more. They are crucial to operating and sustaining the shelter. Most dogs get out every day for a brief 5–10-minute potty break around the facility by volunteer dog walkers. Without them, dogs would not get the time or care they need to function every day.  

“Having volunteers is vital to the shelter’s operation,” said Heaney. “We rely on them to help care for the animals where we are not able to. It also gives the public more insight into what the shelter does for the community and helps relay the message that adopting animals is important. Too many animals come into our shelters every day. We simply cannot afford or have room to house them all. For this, we try to allocate our resources as much as possible but always do so with the animal’s best interests in mind.” 

The Humane Society in Tacoma & Pierce County began in 1888 when a drunk logger in Tacoma found a bear cub while on his job. He brought the bear into town and began kicking it, forcing the cub to do tricks for people. When a group of concerned citizens rallied up and had the man arrested and put in jail, they decided to create a place where animal welfare was taken seriously. The group formed what is now called the Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County.  

Since its creation, they have been able to help support thousands of animals. In 2022, they cared for more than 9000 animals that came into their facility. That year, they also helped provide care to more than 6000 animals through their low-cost assistance program and pet pantry food. This was double the amount that they had in 2021. They provided 55,975 pounds of pet food to families in need and helped rehome several thousand animals from the shelter.   

Heaney says that she is proud of all the work that the Humane Society has been able to accomplish during the time she’s been there. She hopes that they will be able to accomplish every one of their goals for 2023.  

A volunteer walks an adoptable dog during a daily potty break. | Photo by Cameron J. Berrens

“We need people to help support and learn about animal welfare,” said Heaney. “It’s vital to creating a safe environment for people and animals who we share this planet with. If you love animals, consider stopping by volunteer. We are always in need of extra help. We have so many positions available for people of all ages and backgrounds. You can answer the phone, work the pet food pantry, walk dogs or fold laundry and give animals a bath. Every area needs help. The animals appreciate it especially.”  

For more information about the Humane Society and volunteer opportunities, please visit their website at: