Celebrating the creation of a new room for cats and a new beginning for the entire shelter, the Carthage Humane Society's ribbon-cutting on Saturday attracted hundreds of people and hundreds of dollars in food, toys, supplies and cash donations for the animals.


Celebrating the creation of a new room for cats and a new beginning for the entire shelter, the Carthage Humane Society's ribbon-cutting on Saturday attracted hundreds of people and hundreds of dollars in food, toys, supplies and cash donations for the animals.
The number of people who came to the shelter at the Cedar Road exit from I-49 south of Carthage, was shocking to new Carthage Humane Society Director Deborah Bell.
“Wow!!!” Bell said. “I've got to be honest, I don't think you can put enough exclamation points behind that, but this exceeded my highest expectations. It really did, I never thought there'd be this many people that would show up to support the Carthage Humane Society. Somebody estimated at one point it was well over 250 people, that's wow. When I'm done with this, I'll sit down and cry.”

Big turnaround
Bell became director of the Carthage Humane Society in October in the wake of a Missouri Department of Agriculture inspection that showed underweight dogs and expired medications among other problems at the shelter.
Bell said Saturday's event was the celebration of the completion of a cat play room where people interested in adopting could get to know their potential adoptees.
The cat room was made possible by a donation from the late Georgia “Gus” Murrell and funds raised by volunteers at the shelter.
Bell said the event also marked a new beginning for a Humane Society shaken by a near financial collapse in 2016 and a social media storm in 2017 that prompted the Missouri Department of Agriculture inspection.
Kaylene Cole, a volunteer at the Humane Society since 2001 and an organizer of the Carthage group Spare Cat Rescue, which spays, neuters and cares for feral cat colonies in the city, said the atmosphere at the shelter has changed dramatically since Bell came.
“When Deborah took over, within three days when I came in, I could tell a difference in the animals health,” Cole said. “The animals were clean, they were fed, they were happy, the shelter just had a whole different atmosphere. It was friendly, it felt good to come in, I would come in and hang around rather than kind of sneak in and hope no one saw me and get back out. That's the difference and I saw that change in three days. And it has continually gotten better, something new every week that is a good thing, a good new.”
Bell talked about the staff at the Humane Society, all of whom had been hired since she came on board.
“I'd like to thank the hard-working staff, Brooke, Dorian, Laramee, Zach, Isaac and Bre,” Bell said. “They are dedicated to making sure the animals are being cared for well, and they're loved to the point where when the animals are sometimes adopted and they start to walk out, they turn around and look at Dorian or Brooke, and they want to come back.”

Saturday's ribbon-cutting
Saturday's event was a ribbon-cutting, hosted by the Carthage Chamber of Commerce. It opened with firefighters from the Carthage Fire Department raising an American Flag they donated to the Society on the shelter's flag pole, and a prayer from Maj. Dan Kinkade with the Carthage Salvation Army.
Kinkade talked about the Humane Society's mission as a Godly mission sanctioned in the Bible.
“It is written in the inspired Book of God in the Book of Proverbs that a righteous man takes care of the needs of his animals, so we here today are truly a part of something righteous and I would suggest even Godly as we stand up for the creatures that are brought here,” Kinkade said. “They are usually frightened, they're lonely, perhaps abandoned, perhaps sick, maybe even abused, so truly this is something righteous that is being dedicated today.”
Others who spoke included family and friends of Georgia “Gus” Murrell, for whom Gussie's Kitty Haven is named for.
The Kitty Haven is a room with glass on one wall and a glass door where cats can roam outside their cages and play on platforms and with toys.
Bell said it's meant to be a place where people looking to adopt a cat can get to know them and get to know which one would be the best match for their family.
Katie Crigger, the music teacher at Carthage High School, said Gus Murrell was a god-grandmother to her as she was growing up. Katie couldn't attend Saturday's event because she was with the CHS show choirs at a performance in Mount Vernon, but her mother, Kathy Wooldridge, and husband, Brian Crigger, spoke for her.
“Gussie was one of the most compassionate, kind, helpful ladies I've ever known in my life, she was very, very close to my family,” Wooldridge said. “She loved animals, she would go out in the middle of a blizzard and put food out for any animal, it might have been a skunk, she just loved animals. She loved people, she loved this Humane Society. We'd come out frequently, she'd bring towels and papers and anything they needed she was here for. I know she's smiling down today and very happy that this finally came to fruition and I appreciate everyone that helped with everything.”