Operation Round Up: Animal Welfare League Serves Kosciusko’s Community of Paws
We’ve had the opportunity to get to know a variety of impactful nonprofits in the Kosciusko REMC community through the Operation Round Up grant. The following conversation, however, has been the only nonprofit we’ve met with that primarily addresses the needs of the four-legged and, by extension, the animal lovers that surround them.
To learn about the work that the Animal Welfare League (AWL) is doing, we talked to John Lantz, the president of the board of directors, and Tonya Blanchard, executive director at AWL. They discussed the AWL community, the pets they care for, and so much more.
KREMC Interviewer: Your Operation Round Up grant went to cat sterilization. Tell me about this need at AWL and how it’s helping local neighborhoods.
Tonya Blanchard: The only way you’re going to keep the cat population down is if they’re spayed/neutered. People think the trailer park across the road is the ideal place to drop off a cat. If someone doesn’t have the $35 to surrender their pet, I’m going to waive it because I don’t want it to be on the street, especially right here by US-30.
Currently, many of our animals are coming from the trailer park. Residents in the trailer park feed them, and they keep coming, and the more they come, the more they breed. It’s an endless, endless cycle. The only way to break that cycle is to get them into a shelter and a safe place, and that’s here. We want to get them in, get them fixed, and get them into homes and out of the streets. It takes a lot of resources to get them into different homes. We utilize all the vets and Hope For Animals, in Fort Wayne. We probably send out 60-70 animals a month to be spayed/neutered.
We had one hoarding situation where 26 cats, some pregnant, and 24 dogs came in, and we had to build up funds to get them through the system. Getting them fixed is an important part of the shelter.
John Lantz: Every animal is spayed/neutered, microchipped, and gets vaccines. That usually runs at about $300 a pet, and we adopt them out at much less than that.
KREMC Interviewer: How does the shelter interact with the Kosciusko County community?
TB: In 2022, the community gave us so much help. When I put a need out on social media, I get responses within 10-15 minutes. Everyone has been generous, making donations, having meetings here, and more. I want people to know how much we appreciate it. It takes an entire community to be a part of this.
JL: My mantra has been, “Sheltering is a community issue.” We want to get the word out that we’re a nonprofit. This year, we will celebrate our 25th anniversary as a nonprofit. We try to share statistics in the community to show how much our intakes have increased. Many are stepping up, and every bit helps!
KREMC Interviewer: What is the shelter’s most prevalent needs right now, and how can the community help?
JL: When people ask what they can do to help the shelter, we want them to come to play with the cats and walk the dogs. Although the dogs get moved every day, and the cats get fresh food and water, they don’t get a lot of human contact. We also need help with dishes, laundry, and fostering. Fostering is a great opportunity for families. Nobody wants to adopt an animal that’s been raised in a cage. We rely on foster families, and it’s a great experience for kids. It teaches them responsibility at a younger age.
We’re also looking for businesses to have one-day pet food drives for us.
TB: We always need volunteers. Volunteers help this place keep going, and it’s helpful for the animals. We rely on volunteers. We want to get the dogs out and about. We want the community to come and feel welcome here. This is a healing place for people. One girl who’s worked here for about 7 months told me, ‘You do not know how much this job has changed my life.’
KREMC Interviewer: What makes Kosciusko County’s AWL unique?
JL: A lot of shelters don’t provide the kinds of health services we do to pets because they don’t have the funds. Here, every pet gets a wellness check before they get adopted out.
TB: Very few shelters microchip their cats and kittens, but it helps get cats back into their homes. If a lost cat comes in and has a microchip, we can have the cat back in its home within 25 minutes.
Animal Welfare League of Kosciusko County, 2022: