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A life filled with love for animalsOriginally Published December 9, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 7, 2012 at 9:32 a.m.
Ann Sanders, president of the Humane Society of Saline County in Bauxite, enjoys showing off her own dog, a boxer named Charlie, whom she adopted from the society’s shelter. Sanders and the shelter are looking for homes for 23 cats and almost 30 dogs. They would like to reduce the population at the shelter so the animals can be kept indoors during the winter.
“I’ve always been around animals, and I love animals,” said Ann Sanders, president of the Humane Society of Saline County. “I love animals, and it seems my life is all about animals.”
Perhaps that stems from one of her first childhood experiences.
Sanders said that when she was an infant, her room was the same one her parents used to keep chinchillas.
“I was raised with animals. Of course, my folks never got into raising chinchillas for their fur and killing them,” she said.
Sanders’ love of animals isn’t limited to dogs and cats, although she now has one of each.
“Strays always seemed to find me and follow me home,” Sanders said. “I found I could usually talk my parents into me keeping them. I’ve had dogs and cats, hamsters, turtles and rabbits.”
Even today, animals seem to find her. Last weekend she made a trip and took a different road near Harrison. Coming along a pasture, she stopped to look at cows, and a camel walked up to her.
“I took a picture and sent it to my mom with the note, ‘Can I keep it?’” Sanders said. “My mother said she wasn’t surprised at the question.”
After feeding the camel some grass, Sanders traveled on to Branson, Mo.
At the Humane Society of Saline County headquarters on Bauxite Highway, Sanders and the shelter volunteers are used to taking in what she called “weird animals.”
Those include fox and deer that have been hurt; owls, which must be given to the state because they are protected birds; and a collection of mules, dogs and cats, of course, and chickens
“One day we got a coatimundi, which looked like a cross between a monkey and a raccoon (it is related to the raccoon, not to monkeys, but the description fits),” Sanders said. “Everybody asked what it was, and I told them I didn’t know.”
When it arrived, she said, it was not the friendliest of animals.
“When they said the zoo wouldn’t take it, I should have known,” she said, “but one of the vet techs had experience with them, and it was adopted by him within 30 minutes.”
Sanders said she wishes all the animals could find homes that quickly.
“We are a no-kill shelter, and we will keep an animal until we find it a home, or for the rest of its life,” Sanders said.
Along with caring for homeless animals, the Humane Society hosts spay-and-neuter clinics, as often as four times a week. All the shelter animals are “fixed,” Sanders said, and residents in the community can make an appointment for their animals. Two veterinarians make time available for the surgeries at the shelter.
“We see all kinds of dogs that way,” she said. “I’ll come home and say, ‘Guess what kind of dog we had come in today?’”
The price for the surgery is $40 for a cat and $50 for a dog, she said, while shots are $10 each.
Sanders has worked with the Humane Society for most of her life. She said she was a youngster when the shelter opened in 1975. She would volunteer to help the society take dogs to dog shows.
“I don’t know if we got a lot of dogs adopted there, but we made a lot of dog lovers aware of the shelter,” she said.
She remembers always going by the organization’s booth at the Saline County Fair, where she would pet the animals and give what donations a child could make.
The shelter still has special events where people can see the dogs and cats available for adoption, Sanders said.
Growing up, she said, while her love of animals never waned, her volunteer work would be interrupted by school and other pursuits.
“In [Bryant] High School, I was active in the band, playing flute, oboe and being in the flag line,” Sanders said. “After graduation, I joined the Army Reserve.”
She retired a few years ago from the Arkansas Department of Labor. She worked for 28 years in the state office in Little Rock, going from a summer internship in high school to being a special-projects assistant for the deputy director.
Before she retired, she was elected to the Bryant City Council.
“Bryant had a sales tax for animal control, but there was no animal-control unit,” Sanders said. “I first ran in 2000, and when I left office in 2007, there was an animal-control division.”
She said she left office because she was too busy. She had taken over the presidency of the Humane Society in 2003, and she was still working for the state. Then she got a call from Bryant Mayor Larry Mitchell.
“He said he wanted me to be the interim director of the animal-control department, and I said yes because it was animals,” she said. “There was no one else, and it had to be done.”
She helped the department get back on its feet and handled the transition to a new director, while working for the state and running the Humane Society of Saline County and its shelter.
“We find good full-time homes for our animals,” Sanders said. “We usually have about 23 cats and 20 to 30 dogs. We try to keep the total population under 100.”
Each of the animals is ready for adoption for a fee of $75 that includes all shots and a checkup, and the animal has been spayed or neutered.
“We have had one dog for up to four years, but most of the animals are adopted in a short time,” she said. “Then new animals are always coming in.”
Four kittens were brought in during this interview. The owners said they would keep the mother cat if it could be spayed. Sanders said she would try to find them a coupon or some other way to have it done for free or at a reduced price so they would keep the older cat.
Her own animals are shelter animals. Sanders said Charlie, an older white boxer, adopted her more than she did him. He follows her around the building. Her cat was only a kitten when it was brought to the shelter.
“My daughter bottle-fed it until it could eat,” Sanders said. “Once you have done that, the cat is yours.”
As Christmas gets near, she said some people want to give pets as presents. She discourages the idea.
“The holidays are a hectic time to introduce a new family member,” she said. “If it is for a child, we recommend a quieter time, like the summer, when a child can be with the animal all the time.”
Sanders said that between 20 and 30 percent of the animals adopted for Christmas return to the shelter by Valentine’s Day.
”Of course, that means 80 percent get homes,” she said.
She offers some guidelines for holiday adoptions.
“The person going to be the caretaker of the animal needs to be involved in the adoption,” Sanders said. “If it is for a small kid and the mother will be caring for the dog, she needs to be in on the selection. Grandkids picking one for Grandma is not a good idea.”
For those who are looking for a second dog, Sanders strongly suggests bringing their dog along.
“When people bring their first dog along to pick a second dog,” she said, “they almost never pick the dog the humans had in mind. The dogs seem to pick each other. We really like to see that.”
The nonprofit shelter operates on donations and adoption fees. Sanders said the shelter is always in need, but there always seems to be enough to get by.
“Our motto is, ‘If you need it, it will come,’” she said. “It always happens. People will donate stuff that we don’t know what to do with, and in a few days we need it, and I’ll say, ‘I think we have that around here.’”
Sanders said she cannot think of leaving her job at the shelter.
“I get to bring my dog to work, and I am always playing with all kinds of animals,” she said. “And I love them all.”
To make a donation, adopt a pet or for more information about the Humane Society of Saline County, visit the shelter at 7600 Bauxite Highway or call (501) 557-5518.
Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or email@example.com.