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Wichita-area animal shelters put out calls for help as more pets are surrendered, less adopted

Kylie Cameron
Granola goes for a walk outside the Kansas Humane Society.

Local animal shelters are overflowing with cats and dogs. It's part of a national trend.

Scrolling through social media, some feeds are flooded with calls for adopters, volunteers or fosters by local animal shelters and Humane Societies.

And it’s not just the Wichita-area where it's occurring; it’s a national issue.

“Everywhere that we talked to was in the exact same boat,” said Laura Kingsley, who is with Newton's Caring Hands Humane Society. “We are … overflowing with large dogs.”

Kingsley recently attended a conference with other animal shelter workers who are experiencing the same problem.

It’s the same at the Kansas Humane Society and Wichita Animal Shelter.

“This year’s probably going to be one of the highest years for overall animal intake into both shelters that we’ve ever seen,” Humane Society CEO Emily Hurst said.

There’s a mix of reasons why shelters are overflowing.

“With an increase on intake, the number of available dogs, people not taking them back, and then the Kansas Humane Society's overall adoptions are down," Hurst said.

"On top of our mass overpopulation issue, our community is facing a really stark situation with euthanasia.”

While the Humane Society does euthanize some animals, Hurst said it hasn’t had to euthanize any due to overcrowding – but it’s hard to keep up.

The current issues didn’t happen suddenly.

“Wichita did have an overpopulation issue prior to the pandemic,” Hurst said, “and it’s getting worse.”

And the pandemic caused its own set of problems. Some people put off vet clinic appointments for spaying and neutering, causing even more animals to be born and contributing to overpopulation.

People also weren’t able to socialize their animals during COVID shutdowns.

“So they come back with extreme undersocializtion issues,” Hurst says, “which can be aggression toward other people, other animals, not knowing how to behave, and that puts them at another high risk of euthanasia.”

The Wichita Animal Shelter is located in the same complex as the Humane Society, making them natural partners in getting animals from the shelter to the adoption process. But there are still animals that end up at the shelter after running away, and fewer owners are coming back to claim their animals.

That's led the animal shelter to offer financial assistance to people trying to get their animals back who can’t afford the fees associated with it.

“Our goal is NOT to keep your animal — we want to get it back home!,” a Facebook postby the Wichita Police Department said.

Kylie Cameron
Dexter behind the scenes at the Kansas Humane Society.

Dogs also aren’t the only species shelters are having issues with.

“It is kitten and cat season right now,” said Kingsley with the Newton shelter. “Usually we kind of have an ebb and flow where we have a lot of dogs and we have a lot of cats — but now we have a lot of both.”

With shelters overflowing, Hurst said they have to get creative with how they attract more people who want to adopt to their facility — but that comes at a cost.

“When we have a $25 adoption event, for example, we lose on average $6,000 per day in potential income to save the next animal’s life,” Hurst said. “So it drastically impacts our ability to continue serving the community.”

Caring Hands also continues to offer special adoption events or sponsorships for adoption fees on some dogs. But Kingsley said the group’s working on a possible outreach program to help people in the community care for the animals they already have.

“If they never make it in our doors, then they can’t fill up our kennels," she said.

As always, both shelters are looking for fosters or volunteers to help out at the facilities.

“We are always in need of animal fosters, specifically anybody that can help care for adult dogs,” Hurst said. “That's one of our biggest needs that we don't have very many of, but it really [is] every type of animal that you can possibly think of … ”

While shelters struggle to solve their capacity problems, they’re fortunate that some people are still willing to adopt, like Lance Courson.

“The gray one I fell in love with,” Courson said, “and my wife said, 'Not in a million years will we adopt another cat,’ and so I sent her a picture of — we call her Charlee, Charlee Rose — … and so she fell immediately in love with Charlee and she said, ‘Oh my gosh ,I have to have her.’ ”

And so Charlee found her forever home.

Charlee was recently adopted by Lance Courson and his family.
Lance Courson
Charlee was recently adopted by Lance Courson and his family.

“She’s an angel," Courson said. "She’s just like your typical kitten. She has … a ton of energy and she’s just all over the place.
"But man, the Kansas Humane Society, they take care of those pets before they’re allowed to be adopted.”

To view available pets at the Kansas Humane Society, go to kshumane.org.

To view available pets at Caring Hands Humane Society (Newton), go to caringhandshs.org.

Kylie Cameron (she/her) is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, Kylie was a digital producer at KWCH, and served as editor in chief of The Sunflower at Wichita State. You can follow her on Twitter @bykyliecameron.