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Great Plains SPCA will close one of its Merriam animal shelters

Courtney Thomas, CEO of Great Plains SPCA, visits with one of the cats at the Lost Pet & Intake Center, which will soon close. The shelter at 9800 W. 67th St. in Merriam holds about 100 animals.
Courtney Thomas, CEO of Great Plains SPCA, visits with one of the cats at the Lost Pet & Intake Center, which will soon close. The shelter at 9800 W. 67th St. in Merriam holds about 100 animals. icummings@kcstar.com

Starting around the end of the month, shelter for Johnson County’s stray dogs and cats will be a little more scarce.

Great Plains SPCA said it is closing its Lost Pet & Intake Center at 9800 W. 67th St. in Merriam on Feb. 26. Three other locations operated by Great Plains SPCA will remain open to the public, but closing the intake center means losing space for about 100 animals.

The Merriam intake center is closing because its condition has deteriorated to the point where it likely won’t pass an inspection by state officials this year, said Courtney Thomas, chief executive officer of Great Plains SPCA. The nonprofit has been trying to find new facilities but hasn’t been able to replace the aging shelter.

Great Plains SPCA CEO Courtney Thomas explains why the nonprofit is closing one of its Johnson County locations, and what it means for the stray dogs and cats in their care.

“It’s not a safe place for people. It’s not a safe place for animals,” Thomas said. “I think people would be ashamed to know that this is the condition of the shelter serving Johnson County, a community that has resources.”

The building is actually a house that has been used as an animal shelter since the 1960s. In that time, it has housed 200,000 dogs and cats.

Shelter staff wash every water dish and food bowl by hand because the failing plumbing won’t support a dishwasher, Thomas said. For the same reasons, the shelter relies on a household washer and dryer, not industrial machines, to do the laundry.

The “multitude of problems” include faulty ventilation, Thomas said.

Most of the animals and staff will move to the the Great Plains SPCA Pet Adoption Center at 5424 Antioch Drive. The Antioch Drive location will perform intake services for the public three days a week, Thomas said.

To make up for the reduced capacity, Great Plains SPCA recently told several city governments that Great Plains would take in cats only if they were sick or injured and that the nonprofit would no longer provide 10-day rabies observation for dogs and cats that have bitten a person.

Great Plains SPCA has contracts to take in strays from several municipalities, including Overland Park, Lenexa, Merriam, Prairie Village and Independence, as well as some parts of Johnson and Jackson counties. Cities typically pay a fixed fee for each animal taken to the shelter.

In Prairie Village, city officials said they were looking for somewhere else to take their strays, even though the new policies on cats and bite cases would not affect the majority of their animal calls.

The city has been in talks with the shelter for months about possible changes in fees and the prospect of the intake center closing.

For now, Prairie Village is still able to take animals to Great Plains SPCA, said Capt. Byron Roberson of the Prairie Village Police Department, but it may not continue to do so after the intake center closes.

“We don’t see that as being a very viable option,” Roberson said. “We have been exploring other alternatives.”

Great Plains SPCA is raising money to open a new facility. For more information, go to greatplainsspca.org or call 913-742-7344.

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