Animal shelters face challenges in spite of large volunteer work force

Every animal needs a home and no animal deserves to be mistreated. This generally agreed upon sentiment is the reason animal shelters were created in the 1800s. Since then, shelters have taken in millions of animals in the hope of finding them safe and loving homes.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are approximately 7.6 million companion animals that enter shelters every year. The Central Missouri Humane Society in Columbia, took in a total of 3,642 animals in 2014.

An important problem for animal shelters is overcrowding and limited space. Some shelters are known for keeping animals only a certain number of days before the animals are euthanized, however CMHS prides itself on doing this as little as possible.

“Our goal is to never euthanize for space,” said Brooke Turk, CMHS community educator.

Foster homes become a valuable resource for shelters when there is limited space; CMHS has as many as 100 active foster homes. Animal shelters often depend on foster homes to temporarily care for their animals, but often it is difficult to find people who are willing to take on this responsibility.

The CMHS staff tries to recruit foster parents through phone calls, Facebook posts and emails. People are often hesitant to take in an animal because they worry about cost, but a lot of people do not realize that many humane societies will pay for an animal’s food and other supplies while it is fostered. The foster parents are only responsible for providing the animal with love and a temporary home.

“Anything they need that we have, we’re happy to give them,” Turk said.

The items the shelter provides range anywhere from food, to kennels to kitty litter.

Humane societies also struggle with finances. Most animal shelters operate largely on donations, and in the case of the CMHS, 85 percent of their funds are donated.

“We are a non-profit; the more money we have the more we can do,” said Ashley Crocker, CMHS feline care manager.

Along with relying on donations, animal shelters also depend on a volunteer workforce; CMHS has as many as 250 volunteers. Although an active volunteer only works as many as four hours a month, the shelter relies heavily on them to complete basic tasks. According to Crocker, the shelter benefits from numerous college student volunteers. Laws require volunteers to be at least 18 years old, so many high school organizations put their efforts toward raising money instead of physically volunteering their time at the shelter.

CMHS promotes spaying and neutering to lower the amount of unwanted dogs and cats in the community.

“Everything we send out is spayed or neutered,” Crocker said.

Veterinary services are offered at low rates for low-income families, as well as everyone else within Boone County. Vaccine clinics are held four times a year; the next one will be May 16 at the humane society location. Five-dollar nail trims are also offered every Saturday at the shelter.

Kendra Elder

About the Author Kendra Elder

Hello! I'm Kendra Elder, a University of Missouri freshman majoring in science and ag journalism. I am from southeast Missouri. In high school I was active in FFA and the National Beta Club where I served as a state officer. I am now is a member of Ag Communicators of Tomorrow. In the future, I hopes to start a career in advertising and start a cattle farm of my own.