Domestic animals in Kansas City, Kansas, have a lot to be grateful for. Thanks to the Ray of Hope organization, the euthanasia rate at the animal control shelter there has dropped from 80 percent to 7 percent over the past 10 years. And it’s all with a bit of help from volunteers in Olathe.
Amy Hurst manages the all-volunteer program, which partners with the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City and the Kansas City, Kansas, animal control unit of the police department to adopt out animals from the facility, which has limited space.
“One of my goals for retirement was to speak for animals and humans; things that had no voice,” Hurst says. “These animals have no voice. Some of them are in bad situations and are picked up, and seeing them go into new homes with their new families, it’s very touching.”
Each weekend since 2009, Hurst has led a growing team of volunteers that accompanies animals to the PetSmart in Olathe at 119th and Strang Line and PetSmart in Wyandotte County on State Avenue. She estimates they find homes for 400 animals each year.
Lois and David Steward of Overland Park, had not heard of Ray of Hope, but found a 3-month-old Australian cattle dog on Petfinder at the Olathe PetSmart. They met him and adopted him that day.
“He’s beautiful and his temperament is wonderful. We have three grandkids and he is so good with them,” Lois Steward says of the puppy they named Quigley.
Though sometimes the program places kittens and puppies like Quigley — their weaker immune systems makes their placement a priority — most of the animals Ray of Hope offers for adoption are adults.
Humane Society of Greater Kansas City President and CEO Kate Fields explains the strays at animal control shelters are quickly evaluated by a Humane Society veterinarian. By law, every shelter must have a veterinarian of license. The Humane Society has filled that role since 2013.
Some animals stay with the shelter, which has recently started its own adoption program, but others go to the Humane Society or leave with Ray of Hope.
“Typically, we take the harder-to-adopt dogs, and Ray of Hope takes the easier-to-adopt dogs out so they can be same-day adoptions,” Fields says.
Some dogs, like a large husky mix the Humane Society named Zeppelin, need extra care before they go to an adoption event. Recently, someone in Kansas City, Kansas, called animal control when they saw the big dog by the side of a road.
The assumption was that he’d been hit by a car. However, an X-ray revealed Zeppelin had been shot four times. Fields says he’s a handful.
“He needs to learn to be in a home. He’s a good dog, but he’s scared,” she says.
The answer that Ray of Hope came up with for dogs like Zeppelin, as well as very young animals who might not be ready for adoption, is a foster program for pets.
“We’ve grown our foster program because of our animal control contract for the past five years,” Fields says. “It’s really important for people to try to understand we need to get the animals out of the shelter; it’ll be a healthier environment for them.”
Before long, Zeppelin may make an appearance at one of the PetSmart locations and go home with a family who will give him a second chance.