Animal shelters were developed and built to provide a safe haven for animals in the transition from one owner to the next. It is a lofty goal and really a rather simple one. There have always been those in our midst who took on the challenge of helping in the transition. Corinne Smith was one of them, and for the animal shelter in old Camp Bowie that bears her name it is the fundamental function. The sad fact of the matter is that each year Brown County residents send more animals to the shelter than it has room to accommodate while they wait for a new home to be found.

In a perfect world all animal shelters would be “no kill” shelters. All lost and unwanted domestic animals would be cared for either at a shelter or in a foster home until new owners came along to give them a permanent one. People do not volunteer their time, talent and resources for Humane Societies, rescue groups and in animal advocacy because they necessarily believe in, or agree with euthanizing unwanted animals and pets. However there are only so many dollars and so many beds (if you will) and a growing multitude of animals. Too often there is just not enough time. It is not their fault, but the animals become the losers.

The Catch 22 in the situation is that some people will not support shelters because some animals have to be euthanized. However, there are numerous other ways one can help and in turn help the shelter. One is helping to control the population of animals, particularly animals that have very little chance of adoption such as feral cats, which are really domestic cats. They’re descendants of house cats who were abandoned by their people or who strayed away from their homes. When the cats mated, their offspring were never handled by humans, so the kittens became feral. Colonies of the cats can be found living all over Brown County. Anywhere there is some shelter and a stable food source, they can be found. They are living in barns and abandoned buildings. They are patrolling dumpsters in the city alleys and trash cans at the country club. They can be found in neighborhoods in town and in the fields in the country.

According to animal rights groups, the thing about feral cat colonies is that they can be managed. I understand that the trap/neuter/return (TNR) practice has been around for a long time. I first learned of it when I heard a new resident in our neighborhood had launched a one-woman campaign to help. She has been setting out a live trap and when the effort is successful in catching a cat, she takes it to a veterinarian to be neutered. The feral cats have been around for quite awhile and given the feline breeding pattern, the prognosis is they are going to remain for quite some time. A litter of feral cats do not multiply — they grow exponentially. One woman alone cannot make a dent in the growing population in the county. With the help of others the effort could expand to trapping all the feral cats in a specific colony. They all could be taken to a veterinarian for neutering, vaccination, and branding while under anesthesia. The last step identifies the cat as being altered. Absent the breeding capability, feral cat colonies can be managed and live around humans.

The example of one other woman, Corinne Smith, led to the help of many over the years. That leads me to a second and very important way one can help the animals in Brown County. There is one week remaining in the “Raise the Woof” Capital Campaign in Brownwood. The $600,000 goal is needed to build and furnish a new Corinne T. Smith Animal Center. The organizers of the drive were half the way there when it started in the middle of April with a goal of reaching the mark by end of May. It’s not too late and no donation is too small, or too large for that matter. Checks can be sent in care of P.O. Box 1105, Brownwood, TX 76804. The new center is needed to help the animals — the animals are needed to help us.

Robert Brincefield is vice president and publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at bob.brincefield@brownwoodbulletin.com.