KC animal shelter gets so many drop-offs you’ll now need to call ahead

03/21/2014 11:34 PM

03/22/2014 1:58 PM

Kansas City's animal shelter has become so overwhelmed with unwanted pets that it’s putting a new policy in place.

Starting April 1, pet owners won’t be able to simply drive up and drop off Fido or Fluffy any more. They’ll need to let the shelter know in advance that they’re coming.

“We’re requiring the public to make an appointment if you are going to drop off an animal,” said Teresa Johnson, executive director of KC Pet Project, the private management group that operates the city shelter. “You can’t just show up and expect us to take your animal in.”

Last year the shelter took in 8,179 dogs and cats — 1,300 more than in 2012 and the highest number since 2008. But the main reason for the increase isn’t the economy, as it was several years ago, Johnson said. It’s because the shelter is now a no-kill facility and the only “open admissions” shelter in Kansas City, meaning it can’t turn pets away.

“Since we’ve become no-kill, the word gets out, and more people want to come drop their pet off,” Johnson said. “Previously, the city allowed citizens to just, without any sort of notice, drop off owned animals at the shelter. And it was nearly impossible to manage intake like that, because we never had any way of knowing how many new animals from the public would be coming in.”

Dropping pets off at a shelter — especially the city’s shelter, Johnson said — should be an owner’s last resort.

“We take in more animals than any other shelter in Kansas City, and we have the oldest building and the least amount of space,” she said. “So you need to do everything in your power to rehome your own pet before making the final decision to drop it off.”

But for those who have no other options, she said, “we want to know ahead of time so we can have a conversation about what animal is it, what have you done to try to rehome it, and have some kind of feel for how many are coming in each day.”

The shelter doesn’t just take in dogs and cats.

“We took in chinchillas this week,” Johnson said. “And someone called us yesterday about wanting to relinquish their fainting goat. We also take in livestock, so we have chickens and ducks and goats and sheep and pigs.”

KC Pet Project took over management of the city-run Kansas City animal shelter at 4400 Raytown Road in January 2012. The shelter, built in the 1970s, had become dirty and rundown and was euthanizing more than two-thirds of the animals brought in.

The goal is to become as close to a no-kill shelter as possible, euthanizing only dangerous animals or those that are too sick or injured to survive.

Since it took over management, KC Pet Project has improved the “save” rate to more than 92 percent of cats and dogs. The shelter is among the largest no-kill shelters in the United States, Johnson said.

City Councilman John Sharp said the shelter’s new policy underscored the need to build a bigger and more modern animal intake facility in Kansas City. The current shelter, he said, “is woefully undersized and terribly antiquated.”

“And it’s extremely difficult to keep animals healthy at that facility, because there’s not adequate room to quarantine animals or to prevent animals from contracting contagious diseases.”

His proposal? To include about $10 million for a new shelter in the next bond issue that the city puts before voters.

“The staff has suggested the city consider a bond issue on a variety of urgent city capital improvements that probably could be on the ballot in 2015,” he said. “If we have such an issue, I will certainly advocate to add a decent new animal shelter as part of that package or as a stand-alone proposition.”

The KC Pet Project has done a great job trying to handle the influx, Sharp said. It opened a satellite adoption center last year at the Zona Rosa shopping center, and a second center is scheduled to open March 29 at Petco at 95th Street and Quivira Road in Overland Park.

“I’m very pleased to see that and very hopeful we’ll be able to add one in the southern part of Kansas City on the Missouri side,” Sharp said. “But we still need a safe and adequately sized facility that the animals can be initially brought to.”

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