Lee's Summit Journal

LS Animal Shelter finds families for pets, protects public

Ben Bailey takes 12-year-old Coco, one of the shelter’s senior dogs, for outdoor playtime.
Ben Bailey takes 12-year-old Coco, one of the shelter’s senior dogs, for outdoor playtime. Special to the Journal

From roaming giant turtles to escaped livestock to lost cats and dogs, the Lee’s Summit Animal Shelter has impounded and cared for a surprisingly wide variety of creatures. The city’s Animal Control Department has two main goals — protecting the public and taking care of animals, said Rodney Wagner, animal control manager.

The emphasis is on reuniting lost animals with owners and finding new families for pets in need of a home.

The shelter, located at 1991 S.E. Hamblen Road, has a placement rate of 98 percent for animals considered adoptable, which means they are not seriously ill or injured or too aggressive to be placed.

“We are very fortunate to have the public’s backing,” Wagner said. “A lot of people in Lee’s Summit get their pets here and we have families who return to adopt several pets over the years.”

The Animal Shelter includes spots for 72 dogs and 71 cats as well as space for other types of animals. The goal is to move the animals out as quickly as possible — by returning pets to their original homes or through adoptions. In 2017, the shelter staff took control of around 4,500 animals, with dogs and cats accounting for more than half.

To reach the high placement rate, the shelter focuses on adoption public awareness and outreach while partnering with the other agencies. One of the facility’s faithful volunteers is a networker who works closely with animal rescue and adoption groups, including organizations specializing in hard-to-place pets such as older dogs.

“Through these groups, we have sent animals to homes as far away as Canada or Washington,” Wagner said, adding that volunteers workin on placement as well as transportation for pets. “There’s a lot of compassion for animals, and people are willing and help out where animals are concerned.”

A key partner for the local shelter is the Heart of America Humane Society. The society places a number of the Lee’s Summit shelter’s animals into foster homes, takes them to adoption events and helps find permanent homes.

“Heart of America is a huge part of our shelter,” Wagner said, “and everything their volunteers do is amazing.”

The animal shelter emphasizes marketing for pet adoptions through its website, social media, pet adoption booths at area events and other outreach programs. In addition, the staff members make presentations about animal safety and how to care for pets within the community.

Finding good homes for the animals is especially gratifying for the shelter’s employees. “The most rewarding part of this job is getting the animals adopted out to homes,” Wagner said. “They need somebody to take care of them, and if you get the animal to a great home, you’ve done your job.”

Emphasizing placement of senior dogs is a national trend with a growing number of organizations specializing in helping older dogs find the right home. Wagner shared two examples — Lucy and Coco — both 12-year-old dogs who were surrendered to the shelter when their owners could no longer care for them. Like many senior dogs, they are friendly, well-trained and ready for a new family.

In addition to the approximately 2,800 cats and dogs impounded last year, the shelter’s staff deals with a wide variety of pets, wildlife and livestock. The employees have handled horses and cows on the loose, removed wildlife from homes and residential yards and impounded exotic animals, such as peacocks. Wagner added that the shelter has cared for pet pigs, llamas, rodents, birds, snakes, turtles, turkeys and even a 4-foot alligator.

Larger livestock is secured near where they are found by shelter staff with the owners usually claiming them within a few hours. If necessary, the shelter works with area farmers to care for large animals while the owners are located. In addition, the Animal Shelter has an agreement with Lee’s Summit Animal Hospital for more extended livestock housing.

Wagner shared stories about uncommon animals and wildlife found in unusual places, such as a baby fawn sleeping on a front-porch welcome mat and an opossum mother and nine babies living under a kitchen sink.

One of the memorable tales involved the rescue of two African tortoises, one weighing 110 pounds and the other around 45 pounds. “The two of them were walking down the road,” Wagner said, “and someone called and said they saw a dinosaur walking down the street.”

The wayward turtle story had a happy ending with both tortoises reunited with their owners.

The more unique animals create some challenges at the shelter. “The biggest thing with these animals is finding out what they eat and how to feed them,” Wagner said.

Injured domestic animals and wildlife are handled with care, he added. When the employees pick up an injured pet or livestock animal, they take it to a veterinarian.

Injured wildlife is transported to Lakeside Nature Center, located in Kansas City’s Swope Park. If Lakeside is able to heal the animal, the Lee’s Summit shelter returns it to where it was found whenever possible. “Lakeside has done some amazing things to help animals — especially predator birds,” Wagner said.

“We go out of our way to save all the animals we find.”

The Animal Shelter welcomes visitors as well as volunteers. Adoption fees are $115 for dogs, $95 for cats and $10 for small animals such as rabbits. The fee includes the animal’s spay or neuter, a one-year rabies vaccine, a microchip and a combination vaccine and dewormer.

For more information, visit http://cityofls.net/Police/Programs-and-Services/Animal-Control or call (816) 969-1659.