On a Sunday morning, on campus at the Humane Society of St. Thomas, volunteers arrive to walk the dogs. Managers and leaders of the island’s animal shelter say they value teamwork, but now they are seeking a different team to help them meet a major challenge that recently appeared.
After 12 years of powering the facility in times of electrical outages, the generator at the Humane Society stopped running. Those in charge of the day-to-day operations say that leaves them vulnerable in the middle of hurricane season and to failures of the Water and Power Authority.
As the word spread across St. Thomas, some generous business owners offered help, but Humane Society Shelter Operations Chair Annette Zachman says thousands of dollars are needed to cover the cost of buying replacement parts for the shelter’s generator.
Efforts to restore capability are already underway, she said. A portion of the roof on the shed where the generator is kept was taken down to allow a crane to lift out one faulty part. One local company offered to furnish replacement parts at a discount and another company has offered maintenance services, once the repairs are complete.
The generator has been at work since the Humane Society opened its campus on Raphune Hill in 2009. Problems began to surface in May.
“It’s a beast of a machine. It needs huge replacements, major parts replacements, which we’re doing right now. And it still will continue to serve us well,” Zachman said.
For shelter operations manager Rhea Vasconcellos, loss of backup power means a possible loss of drinking water production for hundreds of sheltered animals, a possible loss of refrigeration used to preserve cat and dog vaccines and a vulnerability in climate control.
“If you don’t have electricity, you don’t have a water pump. If you don’t have a water pump, you have to take water out of the cistern. We do not give our dogs drinking water from the cistern that hasn’t gone through the filtration system,” Vasconcellos said.
Uninterrupted power is needed, “to be able to see, to clear, to store vaccines. If we don’t have electricity, we don’t have refrigerators, we don’t have any place to store our vaccines. We really do need our electricity,” the shelter manager said.
As Zachman announced the start of a special generator rebuild fundraising campaign, more than 2,000 appeals went out to recipients of the Humane Society newsletter.
“We need $25,000, and we have so far raised $7,688,” she said. “If we had a couple of other persons who stepped up in the community, that’d be great.”