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A Dogged Problem: Humane Society Dealing With Annual Summer Surge Of Animals Needing Care

The Kansas Humane Society is struggling to find room because of a surge in stray and surrendered animals.

Ericka Goering of the Humane Society said the shelter is used to the uptick during warmer months, when more cats and dogs are having litters. The unwanted ones often end up in its care.

Also, as more pets spend time outside, it’s easier for them to roam and arrive at the shelter next door as strays.

“The summer is a really, really stressful time for us here,” Goering said. “We really struggle with finding open kennels to be able to safely house the animals.

“We struggle with finding enough fosters to be able to take in animals, especially the young and underaged kittens. … They're still not ready to be on their own.”

Last year was the exception to the annual summer increase in animals needing shelter. Goering said fewer pets were surrendered to the Humane Society and fewer unclaimed strays were transferred from the Wichita Animal Shelter.

Lower intake led to fewer adoptions. 2020 saw 6,103 adoptions compared to 8,280 in 2019.

“Last year was the strangest year that I've ever experienced while working here at the Humane Society,” Goering said. “We did not have nearly as many animals coming into our care as we normally would see.

“We had so many people offering to foster for us, which was incredible. And people were adopting.”

More space at the shelter meant staff and volunteers could spend more quality time with the animals. They had the capacity to give extra medical care and behavioral work to the pets that needed it.

Now, the society is running out of kennel space. Goering said the increase in animal intake is consistent with previous summers, and it’s not due to a wave of returns from pandemic adoptions.

To help make adoptions easier, there are no appointments required to visit the Humane Society.

Outside of adopting, Goering said volunteering and fostering are helpful. Volunteer and foster training are both online, and teenagers can now volunteer without a parent.

“We really tried to do some innovative things with our volunteer program just to reduce the barriers to entry and make it easier for people to come in and spend time with us,” Goering said. “We don’t really have any requirements. … We’re just thankful that you come in and do what you can when you can.”

Katelynn McIlwain is KMUW's Korva Coleman Diversity in Journalism intern. She will be a senior this fall at the University of Missouri.

Katelynn McIlwain is a senior at the University of Missouri majoring in journalism (with a magazine writing emphasis) and minoring in digital storytelling. When she’s on campus, she works as an intern at the MU News Bureau and as a resident advisor for MU Residential Life. She is also a member of the Alpha Omega campus ministry.