On any given day, happy yelps, barks, and meows shower the staff and volunteers at The Humane Society of Northwest Iowa. Located on the northeast side of Milford, this non-profit no-kill animal shelter serves Dickinson, Clay, Emmet, Palo Alto, O'Brien and Osceola counties and currently has partnered 93 dogs and 141 cats in new forever adoptive homes during 2020.
Director Travis Hayenga loves the days when a dog or cat leaves with their new family. “These animals have such unconditional love for us, improving our social and emotional health in a way nothing else can,” he added. “It’s so fun to watch the smiles on people’s face when they leave with their new friend.”
Hayenga was hired at the Humane Society this past August and has a huge passion for caring for the animals under their care, for however long it may be. His different duties include educating and overseeing the ethical and humane treatment of all animals, while providing love, housing, and rehabilitation for the cats and dogs who are with them.
“You can be having a good or difficult day and you come here, and these dogs and cats are so ready to love on you,” he said.
The Adoption Process
Because of COVID restrictions, the Humane Society doesn’t currently allow for walk-ins, but they ask any interested families to fill out the application online on their website. Hayenga and his staff work hard to match a family to the right animal, as well as educate them on the different breeds. When the application is approved, the staff arranges for a time when the family can meet the dog or cat.
“We want to make sure it’s a great fit for both parties, as some dogs are more excitable and need more exercise or maybe more care, while others are easygoing. Some of the animals don’t do well around children or groups of people and others do,” he explained.
He does look forward to the future when they can open fully to the public, but this has become a good time to evaluate how and what to do when they can.
Shelter Manager Jordan Spaw also plays an integral role at the Humane Society, overseeing animal care and staff. Prior to the position, she served as the Cat Lead and took care of their routines and made sure all medical needs were met.
“I love working with animals, as it’s always been a passion of mine. I’m also a registered nurse, so have a medical background I can also use while taking care of the cats and dogs under our care,” she said.
Hayenga and Spaw have been working together to create positive changes to the overall functionality of the day-to-day services, so they can effectively help the counties who support them. One way this is being done is eliminating some of the paperwork and filing information out electronically. Another is integrating more cross-training between staff members, so they are equipped to help with both cats and dogs.
“We want to be more efficient and free up time so we can really care for the social well-being of the animals,” Hayenga said. “As well, at the forefront of our mind is remembering we are a non-profit who is ran by the community and we want to be supportive of the community we are serving.”
One area Hayenga would like to focus on within the community is an increase in education, whether it’s helping families and children understand breeds, how to approach animals, or the importance of spaying or neutering animals.
“I look forward when I can go into the schools or with other groups and provide additional education on animals. Asking them about what your role with animals and how you can care for them, as well as how do you approach animals or why animals act the way they do,” Hayenga shared. “I also would like to educate people on the purpose of why we are a no-kill shelter and how all of our animals are rehomed.”
Hayenga background is multi-versed and fully benefits the Humane Society. After high school, he managed and was part owner in the restaurant business, while then becoming the maintenance director at a nursing home. Then for the past decade, he has been in the education system, first overseeing Head Start at Emmetsburg and then transitioning into guidance counseling.
“I had some board members share with me the open position and asked if I was interested. Brooke and I always knew we’d like to move to the Lakes Area, with numerous family members living in the area,” he said. “Then I have a huge passion for animals and it’s really exciting to be able to combine past roles to benefit my position here at the Humane Society.”
One of the important pieces contributing towards the success of the Humane Society is the volunteers who come in regularly to walk dogs, cuddle with kittens, or to do laundry. Hayenga says for the past 15 years, Becky has been dedicated to coming in every Monday. Val and Jeanie also come once a week to walk dogs or aid the paperwork electronic process. Others make toys or countless bags of homemade dog biscuits.
“We are blessed by this community and so many wonderful volunteers who take time out of their days and weeks to love on the animals here,” he added. “We also have an amazing foster care system that I’d like to expand, so we can really better care for the animals who find themselves in a medical emergency.”
The Humane Society receives calls for animals in need or the area law enforcement agencies will also bring cats or dogs they find. Some come to the Shelter very neglected or possibly injured and the foster care system provides one-on-one additional care and love.
“It’s better for the animals as they get extra care at home that we can’t provide here just because of the sheer numbers we sometimes have on-site,” Hayenga said.
During this holiday season, many families will decide it’s just the right time to invite a new friend into the home. Many will pick a dog or cat as a gift. For those who are looking to gift in a different way, the Humane Society has a wish list at https://humanesocietyofnwia.com/ways-to-give.html.
Hayenga also would like to update the fencing surrounding the Humane Society, so the structure and design is more efficient for the dogs and their handlers. “In the long run, this would lower the stress of the animals,” he said.
He also would like to replace the video camera system and has a long-term goal of adding onto the facility with a Morton Building that would serve as a play yard and training area during the winter months.
“Ultimately, we want to serve our community and care for the animals physically, emotionally, and socially to the best of our ability, because some of their stories break your heart,” Hayenga said.
For more information on The Humane Society of Northwest Iowa, visit https://humanesocietyofnwia.com/ or call 712.338.2738. You can view their current adoptive animals on their website and on their Facebook page.
The Humane Society of NW Iowa relies strictly on donations to keep the shelter running and there are so many ways you can help out!
The shelter has a wish list that is update with our most current needs. You can order Smile.Amazon.com or Chewy.com and pick the HSNWIA as your charity of choice, or shop local and drop off the donations at the shelter. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet your new fur-friend while you’re there!
Monetary donations given to the shelter help to pay veterinary bills, facility expenses, staffing, supplies, and other daily operational expenses. If you wish to contribute to a specific project such as the cattery update or new kennels for the dogs, let us know when donating and your donation will be put into that specific fund.
Legacy gifts are a great way to help ensure the homeless animals in our community are taken care of. If you wish to remember the shelter in your Will, your lawyer can help make those arrangements. Thanks to two endowments this summer we were able to keep the shelter doors open during the COVID-19 crisis when fundraising in person was not an option.