Non-Profit 411: Columbus Humane
By: Courtney Fulton
Rachel Finney likes to start her conversations with local organizations, government officials and community members with a simple question. “How many of you have a pet?” Her eyes dance across the room and focus on the hands that raise slowly as she poses a follow-up question. “How many of you consider your pet family?” Without fail, the majority of the raised hands don’t move a muscle.
Finney, who serves as chief executive officer at Columbus Humane, explained that helping others make this simple connection is one of the aspects of her job that she’s most passionate about, because it’s an important one, and one that so many overlook. She then goes on to explain that although this seems like such a simple concept in our personal lives, when making decisions related to family units in a community setting, pets are often forgotten.
“These are people issues...” she hears frequently with a dismissive wave of the hand. In Finney’s eyes, many of the issues that people deal with are in fact also animal issues because of these close relationships that people have with their animals. She has made it her mission to not only help protect animals, but to ensure that the relationships between people and animals are healthy and strong.
Finney has served as CEO of the organization for the past 11 years, and in that time has been a part of a massive staffing expansion, $3 million facility renovation and establishing programming to serve people and animals, including the Safe Haven for Pets program.
Safe Haven was designed to serve families facing situations of domestic violence. Since 2006, Columbus Humane has provided food, shelter, medical care and other necessary services for the pets of victims in these situations as they work to get themselves safe. Pets can stay at the shelter for blocks of 30 days at a time, with an average stay length of 48 days. During that time, staff members ask owners to keep in touch about how things are going and will continue to house the pets until they are established and can be reunited. Although many may not consider the role that animals play in these kinds of situations, Finney has seen it play out firsthand.
“There’s a really strong connection between those who hurt people and those who hurt animals.”
“Domestic abuse and animal abuse have a high correlation.” This leads many victims of domestic abuse to fear for the safety of their pets if they were to leave the home to seek safety for themselves.
“Human beings will put themselves at risk or stay in a dangerous situation because of their pets,” Finney said. She explained that it’s no surprise that this happens because of our strong connection with animals and the fact that many of us consider our pets family. However, she added that programs like Safe Haven are allowing families to find safer situations for themselves without the burden or fear of what might happen to their pets.
“Our philosophy as an organization is that we’re better in partnership – we’re more effective when we combine resources”
These partnerships lie at the root of the organization’s mission because they allow Columbus Humane to continue to bring people and animals together and foster the meaningful connections they add to one another’s lives. Finney said that these kinds of collaborations allow them to help protect the whole family, pets included.