Deidre Knight Matney comes by her love of animals and the Bella Vista Animal Shelter naturally.
“I got involved in 2002 because I personally brought in 10 stray puppies in one year,” the executive director of the Bella Vista Animals Shelter said. “They would just show up at my house or I would find stray puppies crossing the road. I would pull over and pick them up and bring them to the shelter if they had room. If not, I would foster them at my home.”
Deidre, whose mother and a friend started the Humane Society in Springdale in the early 1960s, grew up in the animal shelter business.
She knows why there is such a demand for the services Bella Vista’s shelter provides.
“People do not spay and neuter their pets and that creates an overpopulation problem,” she explained. “I think people just don’t take enough responsibility. If you are going to take on responsibility you have got to be responsible.”
Being a pet owner, Deidre said, is like being a parent. It is the shelter’s mission.
“We want to be here and provide’s them care until we can find them forever homes,” she said. “Our motto is that we live to serve, and we serve so that others may live.”
The staff at the shelter provide a home and care for between 700 and 800 dogs, cats and other pets a year. That doesn’t come cheap.
“Our budget exceeds $300,000 a year,” she added. “We have a contract with the city, but that only represents only 24 percent of our budget. The rest is from donations from the people of Northwest Arkansas. Those donations go to buy dog food, cat food, vaccinations, and to help pay vet costs and our operating expenses like telephone, electric and staff.”
The shelter’s volunteers provide much needed help to the staff.
“We do have a very strong volunteer base,” Deidre said. “We have volunteers who come out and help us clean and do remodeling and construction. We have a lot of Walmart volunteers. They do mowing and built a nice walking trail. We have a lot of children who come out and socialize with the animals and walk dogs. A lot of children now ask for birthday presents for the animals instead of themselves.”
Ingraining a sense of responsibility and care in the young people for animals is important to the shelter’s future.
“They are the future for the stray animals,” she added. “They are going to be the voice for them, to speak for the animals when we are gone. It’s important to instill in the young people that they need to love and learn animal care so that they will be able to care for the animals in the future.”