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The Chattahoochee Humane Society continues to build Palmisano Cat Room

VALLEY — The Chattahoochee Humane Society (CHS) hasn’t been doing any local pet adoptions since the state’s COVID-19 shelter in place order was announced in March. The CHS animal shelter is planning on resuming local adoptions in August. An estimated 50 cats and dogs are currently being housed at the shelter, and many of them will be going out to animal rescues.

“These rescues are a godsend,” said Shon Sims, who has been the shelter director for the past 16 years. “We are extremely grateful for the work they do. There are three animal rescues in Chambers County. We also work with them in Lee County and Muscogee County, Georgia.”

Several years ago, the CHS board purchased a portion of the former Fairfax Mill building in the hope of converting it into a new shelter. That plan never came to fruition, and a new board has decided to remain at the current location on Fairfax Bypass south of Valley. A number of improvements are taking place at the shelter right now.

“We are getting a new roof,” Sims said. “It will completely cover the kennels on both sides of the building. We have replaced the interior kennel gates and the door frames. We are also adding a 12-foot by 12-foot colony cat room. It will provide plenty of room for cats to move around in. That’s much better for them than being cooped up in tiny cages.”

Terry Pollard, a contractor for Batson-Cook, is doing the work.

The new addition will be called the Palmisano Cat Room. It’s in memory of the late John Knowles Palmisano, who grew up in West Point but spent most of his life in the Atlanta area. He died in 2009, bequeathing money to a host of charities, including the Chattahoochee Humane Society. In the early 1900s, there was a Palmisano Fruit Stand in downtown West Point and later on a Palmisano Drug Store near the Lanett Theater.

The current CHS board is committed to retaining the present shelter and making the most humane place for animals it can be. The long-range goal is to be a no-kill center. There is still a way to go on that.

“When I first came here in 2005 we were taking in 4,500 animals a year,” Sims said. “We are on track now to bring in around 1,500.”

Pet adoptions and the work of the animal rescues is really making a difference.

A continuing problem is with feral cats. Sometimes they are being brought in 10 or 20 of them at a time, with many of them being euthanized. Sims said people can help with this by supporting a program known as Trap, Neuter and Release, or TNP for short.  Through his program, feral cats are brought to the shelter when captured, spayed or neutered and vaccinated for rabies. They are then taken back to where they were captured and released. They can continue their natural lives without reproducing or spreading rabies. It’s a humane way to reduce the feral cat population.

“Our community wants us to be a no-kill shelter,” Sims said. “We want that, too, but we have to have their support. They can help by volunteering in some way, by fostering pets – that’s a huge need  – and they can make donations to help us with programs like Trap, Neuter and Release.”

Sims said that she loves her job on most days. The bad days are when animals are euthanized.

“That’s no fun for anybody,”she said.

Most euthanizations for the past two years have been for feral cats. Animal lovers can help eliminate that by donating to TNR.

Anyone with questions about the Humane Society, its work or how they can help can call the local shelter at 334-756-9377, check out the Facebook page or go to chattahoocheehumanesociety.org, where information about pet adoptions is listed.