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Humane Society of Southeast Missouri planning a larger shelter
Chain-link fence rattled and roughly 20 dogs barked and howled as Jeremy Dannenmueller and his family looked for their latest addition Thursday afternoon at the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri.
Dannenmueller, his wife Martina and 3-year-old son Kaden sought the perfect fit -- a black Labrador that's good with children.
"We need a dog young enough that Kaden won't be scared of it," Dannenmueller said. "He usually runs away from dogs."
Of the roughly two dozen dogs that yelped and whimpered in their pens as the Dannenmuellers searched, Sebastian, a 14-week-old black Labrador, caught the family's attention. Kaden fell in love with the dog almost instantly, stroking its fur and exclaiming, "Hi, puppy."
The family took the dog out to the shelter's playpen, and the deal was set -- Sebastian became the newest member of the Dannenmueller family.
Their experience is a common one at the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri, which helped 1,475 animals get adopted in 2010. Hundreds of pets come in and out its doors every month, but the Humane Society faces a problem: The group that provides a temporary home for animals needs a new home itself.
The Humane Society has 81 spots for dogs, cats and other animals like iguanas and rabbits, said Requi Salter, who sits on the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri board of directors. The spots can accommodate more than one animal, but dogs and cats are ideally placed in individual pens. Litters of puppies and kittens and animals that arrive at the shelter together are normally put in the same pen, she said.
But the Humane Society can't keep all the animals it gets in its Boutin Drive location. It sends several of them to other shelters in other cities and is forced to euthanize some animals, Salter said.
To combat the space issues, the Humane Society looks to unveil plans for a larger shelter by the start of 2012.
"Ideally, we'd double in size," Salter said. "That would give us more time to make the animals ready for adoption."
Private funding the shelter once thought was available no longer is, and the Humane Society will seek support from the community to build it, Salter said, noting that there has not been an exact dollar amount set for how much the new shelter will cost.
Whatever the amount, donations will be crucial in building the new shelter, Salter said.
Salter said the new shelter will not necessarily replace the current one, but go in front of it to create more space for animals and the seven paid employees and dozens of volunteers it uses to operate. The current shelter will also be renovated.
"We want it to be a happy place," Salter said. "The new shelter will be more inviting place for animals and people."
Connecting pets, owners
The Humane Society accepted 3,830 animals last year and returned 368 to their owners.
"It's better the owners find them here than somewhere else," Salter said.
Animals are put in comfortable surroundings, Salter said. Every animal that's admitted gets a bed and a toy, as well as a blanket during cold weather. The toys are there for play, but do more to relieve the stress an animal may be under in its new habitat, Salter said.
In addition to returning hundreds of pets to their owners, the Humane Society also ships roughly 500 animals a year to different animal groups throughout the country. Individuals also adopt from afar. The shelter has sent animals to Colorado, Canada and Maryland to start new lives as adopted pets.
Programs like mobile adoption help connect potential owners with pets locally, Salter said. The shelter takes animals to places like West Park Mall and Petco once a month to showcase pets up for adoption and raise awareness. The next mobile adoption will take place at West Park Mall from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.
"The mobile adoptions tend to help," Salter said.
The animals that are not adopted, sent to another animal group or returned to owners are euthanized, Salter said.
"We break our necks trying to save these animals," Salter said. "Not a day or night goes by where were aren't working to find them a home."
Many of the animals that are euthanized are feral cats and cannot be touched, let alone tamed, by humans. Other animals are not suitable for adoption, Salter said.
Being euthanized is a better alternative to being drowned, burned or starved, Salter said, noting that the shelter sees several animal abuse and neglect cases each month.
"They could be in much worse places," she said.
Helping the abused
Salter said the worst animal abuse or neglect case she has seen while working at the Humane Society came in August 2010.
Cape Girardeau police and society staff seized 75 animals from a residence on Boutin Drive on Aug. 24, 2010.
Police and Humane Society workers spent around four hours removing several dogs, around 40 rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, rare birds including a peacock, and five goats from the residence. Most of the animals were moved to a shelter in St. Louis.
"It was awful," Salter said of the hoarding.
Cape Girardeau nuisance abatement officer Ty Metzger said he wasn't sure how many neglected animals he sends to the shelter, but tends to encounter up to seven neglected animals on a busy day. Under Missouri law, neglected animals include strays and animals without adequate food or shelter.
When Metzger approaches a neglected animal, the owners are normally repeat offenders or involved in other types of crime, he said.
"Where there's illegal activity is where you find the most neglected animals," Metzger said.
Abuse and neglect can stem from overpopulation, Salter said, noting that there is a highly effective way to prevent abuse, neglect and euthanasia.
"Spay and neuter your pets," she said. "It's the only way."
2536 Boutin Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO