GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The dozens of adorable faces housed at the Humane Society of South Mississippi are looking for a forever home. A decade ago, the outlook was not so bright, but today the animals have a better chance than ever to find a loving family.
"At that time, we were euthanizing 75 to 80 percent of the animals that came in," HSSM Executive Director Tara High said. "Today, we are still euthanizing, but it's more in the range of 20 to 25 percent."
High said when she took on the executive director role nearly ten years ago, 16,000 pets came into the shelter every year. Appalled by that high number and the amount of animals having to be euthanized, High wanted something done.
"One of the things we knew right off the bat, we could never, ever, ever adopt our way out of pet overpopulation," High said. "We had to start reducing the number of unwanted litters in our community. We focused heavily on spay neuter, so that was the first big, big piece."
The shelter now performs around 10,000 spay and neuter surgeries a year, and the number of animals coming into the humane society every year has dropped by 6,000.
"Besides spay neuter, Love Train has had the single largest impact on our live release rate," High said. "We have partners all over the country, and anywhere from 800 to 1,200 animals a year that take a ride to be adopted somewhere else."
High credits the staff and the community for making these huge strides. As she bids farewell to all the furry faces and the crew, she leaves with a smile.
"I love this organization. I love the mission. I love the people," High said. "There's just so much good in what we have been able to do, and to know that I have been able to work with these people and make this a better place for homeless animals is heartwarming, really makes me feel good about my time here."
High's last day at the Humane Society of South Mississippi is Oct. 31. After that, she is headed to Georgia where she accepted a job as the Vice President of Operations at the Atlanta Humane Society.