Sikeston, Mo., Humane Society hurt by uncertain economic times

Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Scott Welton ~ Standard Democrat
Lanette Baker, director of the Sikeston Area Humane Society, plays with puppies now being housed at the shelter.

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Tough economic times are filling up not only homeless shelters but animal shelters as well.

Lanette Baker, director of the Sikeston Area Humane Society, said she is seeing local pet owners giving up their pets due to financial pressures.

"We are seeing a lot of that," Baker said. "We've got quite a few dogs because people are losing their jobs and it's between feeding their dog or feeding their kids."

Others are faced with finding homes for themselves and are unable to take a pet with them, Baker said. "People are being evicted from their homes -- either losing their homes to foreclosure or being kicked out of rentals," she said.

Baker said shelters are not only getting pets from owners who can no longer keep them, but from pet suppliers, too.

"The bottom has gone out of the pet market," she said. "We have tons of breeders going out of business. Puppies were selling for a quarter."

Not only are more pets coming into shelters, but in most cases fewer are going out as hard economic times also means fewer pet adoptions.

"We've been lucky this month: We've adopted out more dogs than we normally would have," Baker said. "But I reach out to more than our local area -- I reach out as far as I can. Somebody drove up from Memphis Saturday to get a Malamute I had."

Baker said she has someone coming from Texas this weekend for another dog at the facility.

But the combination of lots of pets coming in and few being adopted out is causing some shelters to turn away people who want to drop off pets. Baker said they are doing their best to not turn people away.

"We stay full, but we take in as many animals as we can. That's what we're there for," Baker said. "We want to supply the best care we can for the animals. In an emergency situation, we do what we can."

The Sikeston Area Humane Society voice-mail message does advise, however, that they do not take any animals in without a scheduled appointment.

"We've done that for a couple of years," Baker said. "We only have so much room. We don't want to be overcrowded. If we didn't set up appointments we might have 30 people show up in one day with 30 litters of puppies."

By requiring appointments, she said, they are able to make sure they have enough room.

Baker said those who know they will be unable to keep their pets should make plans for them in advance.

"A lot of people wait until the last minute to figure out what they are going to do with their pets," she said. "Most people know a couple weeks before they get evicted."

Those who are considering getting a pet are encouraged to check with the shelter first.

"We've got a whole bunch of really nice animals at the shelter that need homes," Baker said.

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