The community dedicated to the animals at Lee’s Summit Animal Control extends beyond the staff and volunteers who meet their needs. Advocates and activists focused on the long-term future of the shelter help ensure it can continue to care for more than 4,000 animals a year.
18-year-old Zach Burton is one of those activists.
In 2016, Burton approached city officials with a plan to promote green energy in Lee’s Summit through a solar power project. Burton has worked with the city, architects and energy professionals over the past two years to bring his project to fruition at Lee’s Summit Animal Control.
On July 11, Burton’s efforts were realized with the dedication of 96 solar panels at the shelter. Energy from the sun will now help power the facility, and over the course of 25 years the 30-kilowatt system will reduce energy expenses by over $135,000.
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“I like making long-lasting change,” Burton said. “Over the years, the money saved will help improve opportunities for the animals and will positively impact the entire shelter.
“Solar power also reduces our carbon footprint, which helps animals, people and all living things.”
Rodney Wagner, Lee’s Summit animal control manager, says the solar panels are part of a significant program at the shelter to brighten the lives of the animals they serve, now and in the future.
Many of the high-wattage lights are being replaced, he said. “The energy savings on these lights is tremendous and they’ll really reduce the use of electricity. With the benefits of the solar power, it’s really going to make a difference.”
Wagner envisions the energy savings going toward issues not only on the forefront at the shelter but also close to his heart.
“I love senior dogs, and they’re very hard to adopt out. I would like to put the additional resources toward our senior dog rescue and hard-to-adopt programs. … We want to adopt out all of the animals we can.”
To that end, Lee’s Summit Animal Control is creating more connections throughout the community. Over the past two years, it has developed new partnerships and plans to continue expanding them.
“PetSmart has an adoption program for our cats and has helped us find permanent homes for a lot of them. The Heart of America Humane Society has been a great partner, and we’re also seeking out new groups to help get animals adopted and fostered,” Wagner said.
“There’s a Lee’s Summit resident who networks exclusively for our senior dogs and hard-to-adopt breeds. She networks with foster groups in six or seven states and has placed 100 dogs for us in the past year.”
Also in the past year, the shelter’s staff has developed enrichment programs for the animals, with more to come.
“We’re trying to do anything we can to make the animals’ lives better in the shelter. We’re creating programs to keep them active and get them outside a lot more to play in a group setting and socialize with other animals and people,” Wagner said.
“Having fun is what they should be doing. That’s where they need to be.”
With the successful completion of his solar panel project, Burton is now looking toward his own future. In the fall, he will begin studies in software development at the University of Central Missouri.
“I plan to work in web development, but environmentalism is something I will always be passionate about. I will be an activist for the rest of my life,” he said.
Further information about the Lee’s Summit Municipal Animal Shelter and their adoptable animals is available at cityofls.net.