Freeing a New Standard for Animal Shelters


SPCA of Southwest Michigan serves animals in need while establishing its roots in the community as a shelter that is unlike the rest, promoting positive change as a result.

While not everyone experiences a childhood calling to serve a greater purpose, Katie Timber, SPCA of Southwest Michigan executive director and long-time advocate of helping animals, did. In fact, her future crawled right onto her lap and snuggled in.

At 14 years old, Timber found herself in foster care with a family who also fostered animals. She grew up feeling the warmth that these creatures provided and knew that she needed to spread this love to other families and pets in need; the impact hardly ended after had Timber moved out. “My childhood inspired a lot of the programs that [the SPCA has created],” says Timber. From her simple love and care for animals, to programs that integrate the work of the SPCA with organizations that serve human community members, Timber and her team work for humane treatment of all Southwest Michigan communities—no matter how furry.

When it comes to pets, the organization is setting a new status quo for how animal shelters should be operated: It all begins with its commitment to building trusting relationships and maintaining connections with its community.

The award-winning not-for-profit animal shelter has evolved since its creation; it now stands alone as one of the organizations in Michigan where animals can receive the care that they desperately need—right in-house. The SPCA also prides itself in serving as a no-kill shelter, meaning that 90 percent or more of all animals it takes in find their forever homes—and stay far away from euthanasia practices.

“These animals are not simply strays, they are important community members,” says Timber. This belief drives the SPCA’s constant ability to improve its policies and work with as many animals as possible. Timber’s extreme dedication to the animals at the root of the cause helps to energize the extensive, ever-growing pool of dedicated volunteers and is a major pillar on which the organization balances.

The regional SPCA has rescued over 16,000 cats and dogs over the years; this translates annually to helping 2,000 cats and dogs, adopting-out roughly 1,400 of them throughout 10 Southwest Michigan counties—an all-paws-on-deck effort!

Even beyond adoption numbers, the SPCA focuses on animal wellbeing in other areas, too. It takes things a few steps farther than simply rescuing the animals from homelessness or death; the SPCA of Southwest Michigan also places a high value on every single animal’s well-being, as well as the health and safety of animal populations in the region overall.

One such way that the SPCA works to achieve this is by dedicating time and effort to ending the cycle of neglect—namely, by controlling future animal populations with annual spay and neuter clinics. The proof is in the numbers: With a 98 percent live release rate and rapidly decreasing level of euthanizations, it is evident that the SPCA is doing incredible things in Southwest Michigan.

“A lot has changed within the organization over the years and perfecting our euthanization policy was one of them,” says Timber. While bringing an end to euthanasia in Michigan is at the forefront of its mission, providing all cats and dogs with loving homes remains an important ingredient to the SPCA’s recipe for success.

“I believe in the power of animals,” Timber states. She is sure that this belief alone will continue to push her team at the SPCA of Southwest Michigan to set new goals for the growing organization. Visit the SPCA of Southwest Michigan today to see the power of animals for yourself—and, maybe, take home a new best friend!

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