Update on Paws and Claws

On May 29, the Shirley Yeager Animal Friends Foundation finalized the sale of their 4,000-square-foot facility on 20 acres in southeast Bourbon County.

It was purchased by Zachary and Aubry Ross of Fort Scott.

On April 23, 2011, the ground was broken and construction began on a 2,000-square-foot animal shelter called Lee’s Paws and Claws. Not long after, an addition doubled the size of the shelter.

The foundation began with a bequest from Shirley Yeager. While generous, it was not sufficient to build and operate a no-kill shelter. The shelter was built with funds donated by Marjorie “Lee” Weast.

SYAFF is a private corporation which has been granted 501(c)3 not-for-profit status by the IRS. It receives no tax monies from the City, County, or State, relying instead on income earned on the Yeager bequest and the remainder of the Weast gift, as well as small donations, and, very occasionally, grants.

While the community’s support for the foundation’s mission has been strong, donations have not kept pace with increasing needs and rising costs. The overhead on such a large facility created a negative cashflow and eventually threatened the long-term financial viability of the organization.

In addition to the high overhead, the location was an issue. The shelter was located on a gravel road seven miles from central Fort Scott. This discouraged people from visiting the shelter, especially to volunteer.

Last year, the executives of the SYAFF board of directors made the difficult decision to sell the facility, with the goal of transitioning to a more economically-sustainable business model in a more affordable location. Earlier this year, the shelter moved into a smaller facility at 8 North Judson Street which they are renting. At the end of this year, decisions about a long-term location will be made.

The foundation’s shelter is now doing business as “Fort Scott Paws & Claws Animal Shelter.” A ribbon-cutting was held at the new location on May 16.

During the first few weeks it was open downtown, the shelter had more volunteer hours than in all of last year. The convenient location has also allowed the shelter to expand retail sales as another source of income.

The new shelter houses cats and kittens in two rooms, just as it did at the previous location. A major change is that dogs are not housed at the shelter; instead, they now are housed in foster homes. Living with a family rather than being caged in a kennel is much better for the dogs’ health and behavior. The foster “parents” are able to provide accurate descriptions of the dogs’ personalities, making it easier to make a good match with potential adopters.

Applications for adopting or fostering can be found at FSPawsAndClaws.org. Donations, which are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law, can be left at the shelter or mailed to PO Box 667, Fort Scott. The shelter is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm.

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