Little Traverse Bay Humane Society

Some organizations live up to their guiding philosophy.

Some fall short.

Count Little Traverse Bay Humane Society (LTBHS) among the ones that make their words work.

The Harbor Springs shelter was established in 1951 from what they term “humble beginnings” and now boasts a number of affiliated for-profit services, such as veterinarian services, boarding, grooming, day care and training that feed their bottom line.

Elise Ramsey is director of operations for LTBHS. She breaks their philosophy down this way: “There’s a lot of work to be done and we’re here for it. That’s why we try to think outside the box and help where we can.”

That help extends to the more than 762 pets they took in last year along with the 710 animals that went back to the community through adoptions. The year before, they took in 520 animals.

“We’re definitely proud of that,” she said. “Along with our shelter and foster rate, we have a 98% save rate. We’re a comparatively small shelter and we don’t have a county contract, so we don’t have mandatory intakes. That’s different from where I’ve been before.”

Those stops before Harbor Springs include an eight-year stint at Michigan Humane Society in Detroit where she worked as an animal cruelty investigator, a convergence of her interest in law enforcement and animal welfare. When Ramsey reached Harbor Springs two years ago, she brought with her a belief in connecting with other organizations and providing whatever assistance LTBHS can.

They recently got together with Big Lake Humane Society in Muskegon to take in 18 of their cats after they experienced a distemper outbreak that temporarily closed their shelter. Although that influx pushed their shelter capacity, Ramsey said it was the right move because it allowed them to keep cat adoptions moving.

They’ve also partnered with their neighbors at the Cheboygan County Humane Society to change the breed mix of dogs available for adoption at LTBHS. That move came after they realized that they should be taking in pittie mixes along with their usual canines.

“Once again, we’re here to help where it’s needed,” she said. “It’s part of our mission. It’s why we’re putting in best practices. That was such an easy win for both of us and that’s where we want to be.”

About a year ago, LTBHS joined Michigan Pet Alliance, making another connection that has worked out well for them. The free training resources MPA offers have increased the training resources available to their staff while the MPA email blasts that share various resources have brought them a new way to engage with their peers.

“We felt it was important to join MPA so we’d have a group in our state to communicate with,” Ramsey said. “The email blasts are a gift from MPA. That resource wouldn’t be available to us without MPA. The free training resources are terrific.”

Last year, LTBHS received one of the Continuous Improvement Grants for onsite feline cat care training from MPA. The two-day training the shelter staff received included:

  • Feline Body Language: Understanding Cat Body Language from Tail to Nose
  • Stress-free Basic Cat Care: Basics of Providing Low Stress Care for Your Cat Population
  • Creating and Managing a Well-rounded Cat Program: Keep Your Population Behaviorally Sound and Find Homes Faster
  • Feline Behavior Assessments: Using History and Observed Behavior to Find the Best Outcomes for Cats in Your Care
  • Feline Behavior Modification and Management: Creating and Implementing Treatment Plans
  • Feline Enrichment and Stress Reduction: Reduce Illness, Improve Behavior and Decrease Length of Stay for Shelter and Rescue Cats

Participants of the training earned a certificate of achievement recognizing them as a certified – feline humane caregiver. Their next step is to look at what they can do to blend in what they learned from their MPA trainer.

“Having someone come to us like that was very exciting,” she said. “Now that the staff’s trained, they’re looking at what they can do with it.

“We’re looking at improved enrichment, new kinds of housing, fear-free shelter courses. We’re so impressed by what they brought us.”

The results of the training have become apparent to LTBHS staff.

“We’re seeing some cats doing better, coming out and interacting,” Ramsey said. “The changes are visible to the staff and now there’s a new confidence level among the staff. They’ve become engaged with the ideas they received in training.”

Now, LTBHS is planning a canine sensory garden for the shelter grounds, something Ramsey said they really need. The garden will be available to both the shelter dogs and to owned animals.

“We have a lot of exciting things happening,” Ramsey said. “We realized that dogs really needed that training. We love learning and teaching and we’re always looking to share with our peers.”