Humane society adjusting in tough economy

Monday, October 6, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com Jessica Kinney holds a pit bull and terrier mix dog while Brandie Peterson gives it several vaccination shots before sending it home with someone Thursday at the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri.

A weak economy isn't just affecting people. Dogs, cats, rabbits and goats are feeling the downturn as well.

The cash-strapped Humane Society of Southeast Missouri, 2536 Boutin Drive in Cape Girardeau, has been forced to take measures such as purchasing food for its animals, which normally would have been provided by donations.

And with less money coming into the organization because of a lagging economy, executive director Cheryle Dillon said such measures can affect the Humane Society more than most people may realize.

"There is no way to bring in more money," Dillon said. "Our supporters already are giving all they can. We've always operated on as little as possible, so it's hard to cut back."

Within the past three months, an above-average number of pets have been entering the shelter's care.

In a normal year, the facility cares for between 4,700 and 5,000 animals. But because of a slowing economy, more owners in Southeast Missouri have been unable to afford to keep their pets, increasing the number of animals turned over.

"People also are being foreclosed from their homes or moving into apartments that don't allow pets, which forces them to give up their animals," Dillon said. "I thought this increase would stop but it hasn't."

To accommodate the increasing number of animals in its care, the shelter has planned a two-phase expansion from 6,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet.

On Sept. 2, the Cape Girardeau City Council gave first-round approval for a special-use permit allowing the shelter to expand its operations on its property. The current structure is in an area with residential zoning, so the permit is required. The expansion work will require a capital campaign, Dillon said.

However, the economy has delayed the plans for now.

"We're in a wait-and-see mode," Dillon said. "With the economy the way it is, we'll have to hold off on that project until it improves."

The shelter has been operating out of its current building since 1976, four years after a flood severely damaged the city pound at Arena Park. Since then it has added additional small structures to accommodate the increasing number of animals it accepted.

But no matter how many more it accepts, Dillon said the mission of caring for animals will not change.

"We have to think about the health and safety of the animals," Dillon said. "A lot of people don't realize the need for spaying and neutering their pets, but it's very important.

"Additionally, it's not safe for pets to be abandoned and out there on their own," she said. "That's where we come in. We try to create awareness that it's so important for people to adopt these animals."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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