After the San Gabriel Valley Humane Society, plagued by financial problems, barely survived 2009, it looked like 2010 was going to be a better year.
That is, until the recent storms that brought heavy rain and massive floods to California caused the shelter’s cat room roof to collapse.
Since the roof collapse, the shelter has been keeping its 135 cats in the employee break room and a former feline sick ward.
But even though the cat room is a wreck, the staff keeps going. “Who can take breaks anyway?” said Robin Mininkel, the shelter’s veterinary technician.
The organization’s new Board of Directors and management spent much of last year digging out from a mountain of debt that threatened to close its doors forever.
“[The shelter] was supposed to close in August 2009,” Humane Society Board President Pat Brayer said. “The auditors had just written it off.”
The organization has contracts with some area towns, but these contracts do not cover the costs of keeping animals surrendered to its shelter. The humane society relies on donations from individuals and is still operating at a $250,000 annual deficit.
“The community either doesn’t know about the shelter or doesn’t support it because it was so terrible for so long,” Brayer said earlier this week.
But the collapse of the cat room roof has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
After wide publicity in local newspapers and on area TV stations — and thousands of internet users who spread the shelter’s story across the nation — the San Gabriel Valley Humane Society is now being flooded with donations.
By 6:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, 400 people had donated through the shelter’s PayPal account, Brayer said.
When the staff arrived at work that day, four people were waiting to adopt animals.
“I’m sure we have more now,” Brayer said at noon Wednesday. “They started last night. I was trying to print them out but I finally thought, ‘I can’t keep going through them.’ I had to go to sleep.” We are so grateful.”
Three roofers offered to repair the cat room, but more than a decade of neglect has taken its toll. After examining the area, one of the roofers said the building is so damaged that it’s not worth fixing, Brayer said.
Brayer is now hoping a general contractor will work with the Humane Society board to help the organization build a new shelter for the 260 animals in its care.
The donations might serve as seed money for that project, she said.
She still had no idea how much money had come in so far. “We got some [donations] as small as $8 and some as large as $500,” she said.
“We only need two buildings,” she said. “We don’t need a Taj Mahal.”
People interested in donating to the SGV Humane Society can do so via PayPal at the organization’s website. Checks and cash donations can be mailed or brought to 851 East Grand Avenue, San Gabriel, CA 91776.