Humane Society of Walton County to fill a big need

Walton Living Magazine by the Walton Tribune

From left: Miranda Poreba and DeeDee Rosendahl ready to open Human Society of Walton County on Highway 138. Photo credit: Sharon Swanepoel

Homeless pets in Walton County are on the verge of getting some much-needed, and potentially life saving, help. 

Although Walton County Animal Control has managed to reduce its euthanasia rates, from 43% for dogs and 82% for cats in 2012, to 20% for dogs and 53% for cats in 2022, it is still considered a high kill shelter. 

Miranda Poreba, of Monroe, is hoping that the newly created Humane Society of Walton County will help change that to a no kill shelter. 

There was a Walton County Humane Society at one time in the past that was formed in 1971 by Jim Kidd, Frances Enslen, and Paul Verner, Poreba said. However, it was disbanded in 2001 after all three of the founders passed away.

“One of our main goals with opening this facility is being able to offer comprehensive, sustainable, support for the Walton County Animal Shelter,” she said. “Through our partnership, and the existing partnerships in the community, we do anticipate them becoming a no-kill facility that only euthanizes animals that are unsafe to release to the community.”

After approaching the Walton County Board of Commissioners in June 2023 with her vision, and getting their support, Poreba went about making her dream a reality with the assistance of some other dedicated animal advocates in the community.

“I’ve always had a deep love for animals, which grew even more during my time volunteering at a humane society and fostering dogs in college. In 2021, I met with Mr. Frank Valente, the president of the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast, in Palm City, Florida. This meeting inspired me to get serious about bringing a humane society to my hometown. Mr. Valente has been a tremendous mentor, connecting me with vital contacts in animal welfare. With his guidance and my father’s support, we embarked on the journey to establish a humane society in Walton County,”  In January of this year, Kris and DeeDee Rosendahl contacted us with their enthusiastic willingness to help us in any way. Together, we have been working hard to make our dream a reality,” Poreba said. Her father is local real estate developer Darren McWaters.

In just a few short months, the property on Highway 138 was acquired and construction began with Poreba expecting to be able to open the doors this year.

“We are putting the finishing touches on the shelter facility now and working through the process to receive our shelter license from the Georgia Department of Agriculture. We expect to be able to start taking in animals early November and plan to be open to the public mid-November,” she said. “I feel a mix of excitement and gratitude as we near the realization of this dream. The support from the community and the guidance we’ve received have been incredible. It’s a testament to what can be achieved when people come together for a common cause.”

Once complete, the facility will have 20 indoor kennels for dogs, one large room for adoptable cats, eight outdoor kennels for dogs and two large play yards. 

Poreba said in the morning, the dogs will be taken in rotation to the outdoor kennels to spend some time in the fresh air and others will be taken to the play yards to be socialized and trained to help encourage their adoption. At some time in the future, there also will be walking trails and volunteers will be able to take the dogs in the facility for walks around the property. Poreba said there also are plans to expand on the current building, probably within the next two years.

“We will have some basic medications and vaccines on site, but sterilization surgery and more complex medical needs will be handled at our partner vets off-site,” Poreba said. “We will be serving only Walton County animals at this facility.”

Poreba said she has learned that cats do much better when they are not in cages so they will be kept in the large room where they plan to have runners along the wall for the cats to climb on. There also will be a window perch for them to be able to get a chance to look outside.

Shawn Morris, director of Walton County Animal Control, recently commented on the situation regarding cats and how difficult it is for the shelter to contend with the number of cats that end up there. He said that the county is overrun with feral and stray cats and consequently many of them end up at the shelter.

“We respond to calls and trap feral and stray cats. Many feral cats are not socialized to live with people, so they don’t get adopted. We take in 100 to 250 cats per month,” he said, “We struggle with euthanasias, we are human.”

Poreba is hoping to be able to really make a difference with the Walton County Humane Society. 

“We won’t have any specific time limits for animals awaiting adoptions,” Poreba said. “We will keep each animal until they are adopted or in rare circumstances, until they become too behaviorally or medically unsound for adoption. There are a lot of very involved rescue organizations and individuals in the community. We don’t anticipate the need to send animals from our facility to other rescue organizations, but we do hope to be able to support and build up relationships with other organizations that are also supporting the Walton County Animal Shelter.”

A recent benefit concert, with the money brought in matched by a generous anonymous donor raised a total of $120,000 to help get the facility up and running, but continued funding will be critical to keeping the facility running.

“Our community will play a major role in our success. We will be needing many hands-on volunteers. Also, donations are crucial as we are a nonprofit. Monetary do- nations can be made on our web- site, humanewalton.org. Supplies donations (food, bowls, leashes, etc.) can be coordinated by calling us at 770-800-PETS(7387),” Poreba said. The facility will rely on a combination of paid staff and dedicated volunteers. “We currently have a full time executive director and are hiring a full time shelter manager. We are currently evaluating additional staffing needs but anticipate hav- ing a robust volunteer program,” Poreba said. They have already been contacted by Eagle Scout programs with offers to do projects at the shelter to earn merit badges. And we would like volunteers to manage off-site events, the foster program, and the behavior & enrichment program. We welcome volunteers with all levels of experience working in shelters and with animals.
“While our mission is about supporting the animals in the community, we really look forward to enhancing the human-animal bond and supporting people in the com- munity as well by making adoption and spay/neuter easy and accessible to all residents.” 

Donations to the Walton County Humane Society can be made at humanewalton.org or by calling 770-800-PETS.

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