The Erath County Humane Society is in disrepair - and has been for years.

"We haven't had any funding to repair anything," said Judy Hallmark, ECHS director.

With an annual budget that barely covers operating expenses, the humane society is unable to improve the wear and tear the building has experienced since it opened in 1985.

But Leadership Stephenville is working to take a bite out of some of the animal shelter's woes.

On Saturday, March 26 at 7 p.m., the leadership class will host the "Paw Ball" at City Hall at City Limits to raise funds for improvements to the facility. Tickets to the event are $40.

The evening will begin with dinner and be followed by a pet parade and auction. Animals currently residing at the shelter will be featured in the parade of pets and will be available for adoption throughout the night. Leadership class member Courtney Vanden Berge will be emceeing the four-legged line up and provide fun facts and quirky details on each cuddly creature.

Leadership Stephenville class members are not the only community members who have anted up for the event. "The King of Cowboys," Ty Murray, and his country crooning wife, Jewel, have donated autographed memorabilia that will be auctioned off. While class member Beau Mayo has contributed his own "custom-built designer dog houses."

Each year, a fresh crop of Leadership Stephenville "students" select a local non-profit organization to raise awareness and funds for the Erath County cause.

"It was (Stephenville) Police Chief Pat Bridges' idea," Vanden Berge said of this year's effort.

The class was very surprised to hear the humane society named as a possible benefactor, and the classmates immediately agreed that the organization would be their "pet" project.

"Our jaws dropped at the prospect of helping such a worthy cause," added Vanden Berge.

Prior to Leadership Stephenville's first meeting and shortly after joining the police force, Bridges made a visit to the humane society to meet the staff.

That's when the self-proclaimed animal lover noticed the "significant need" for improvements at the shelter.

"A lot of what they are trying to [repair the facility] is cosmetic, but the problems run deeper," Bridges said.

Leadership Stephenville is hoping to raise enough money to complete a list of planned improvements.

"We have prioritized all the improvements and are going to be knocking each of them out as we are able," said Mayo, who is spearheading the facility upgrades.

Improvements that are critically needed, according to Mayo, are interior and exterior dog pens, central heat and air to one building, proper drainage on the grounds, new storage and more.

"The whole facility needs a makeover," Mayo said.

Mayo believes that little traffic into the shelter has led to the current condidtion. While Stephenville is a giving community, Mayo said the facility is out of sight - and often out of mind.

"If everyone in Stephenville knew what this place looks like, the repairs would have been done already," Mayo said.

The Erath County Humane Society is a tax-deductable, non-profit organization established in Stephenville in 1985. ECHS receives approximately 20 lost or abandoned animals each week, but only adopts out an average of five per week.

For more information on the Paw Ball contact Courtney Vanden Berge at the Stephenville Chamber of Commerce at 965-5313.