DONIPHAN, Mo. -- The owners of the only animal shelter in Ripley County worry the facility may have to close soon due to lack of funds and volunteers.
Hank and Della Hadley opened Kindred Spirit Animal Rescue Center in 2008 and have since found homes for more than 650 animals. However, with vet bills of more than $12,000 per year and a $400 monthly food bill, the Hadleys have poured a good portion of their own modest income into the shelter and can no longer afford to do so. The shelter costs about $39 per day to operate, according to Hank Hadley.
Hadley attempts to keep vet costs low by performing worm and feline leukemia tests himself. Dr. Ginger Seagraves of NEA Veterinary Clinic in Corning, Ark., along with Dr. Ashley Chaligoj, also offer their services at a discounted rate.
The center faces a volunteer shortage as well. Although Hadley has multiple sclerosis, he has taken only one day off since opening the shelter because there aren't enough volunteers.
"If you only spend one hour per week at the shelter, it means the world to those animals," Hadley said.
The shelter is near Fairdealing, Mo., but has accepted animals from other underserved areas, including Carter County and Northeast Arkansas. Kindred Spirit takes in dogs, cats and occasionally small farm animals. The shelter is no-kill, only euthanizing for serious health conditions or if an animal has a dangerous temperament.
"The decision to close was not taken lightly because I realize we're the last rescue in this area," Hadley said.
Hadley has set a closure date of Feb. 1. However, after getting the word out about the shelter's challenges, including an article in the Prospect News in Doniphan, he has been more optimistic.
"We received a really good response on volunteers," he said.
In the week following the story's publication, six new volunteers contacted Hadley.
Hadley set the closure date based on when the shelter's license would need to be renewed. He has until Jan. 25 to renew the license.
Even that has become more costly after the passage of Missouri Proposition B. According to Hadley, the shelter must now pay $100 plus $1 for each animal taken in throughout the year.
When the shelter opened in 2008, 58 animals were taken in. That figured doubled in 2009 and 2010, with about 100 animals rescued each year. The number exploded again in 2011, with 376 animals adopted, many of them sent to rescues across the country.
Since the fee formula has changed and so many animals were helped in 2011, the shelter now faces a nearly $500 licensing fee.
When Hadley announced the shelter may need to close and could no longer take in new animals, 81 were in need of homes. Several have since been adopted, including three miniature donkeys that went to a family in Sikeston, Mo. Eight cats, 38 dogs and several pygmy goats are still in need of homes.
Hadley said when he realized the shelter may have to close, "it broke my heart."
"This was my dream," he said. "The first three days all I did was cry and hibernate."
The Hadleys moved to Ripley County from Sarasota, Fla., "expressly to open the shelter" in the underserved area.
"We had been up here several times to see friends ... and we just saw the need," he said.
"[Highway] 160 was just littered with bodies," Hadley added. "Too many people today think animals are just disposable, and they're not."
Hadley also thought a Midwest location would allow animals to be adopted in neighboring states.
"People told us it was going to be a hard sell but obviously the numbers tell us we're doing something right," he said.
Hadley drives a school bus for Neelyville schools, while Della works at Early Head Start in Poplar Bluff, Mo. At times Hadley has signed his paycheck directly over to the veterinary clinic to keep the animals cared for.
While more volunteers are needed anyway, Hadley said if the shelter receives more "community support" it is more likely to receive grants. One of the shelter's three new board members has written grants before, so Hadley is optimistic.
Hadley hopes the shelter can generate support like the Animal Welfare Alliance has in Poplar Bluff, Mo.
The picture looks less dismal than it did, but Hadley still stresses the shelter cannot remain in operation without more funding and more volunteers.
"It's our hope people will step up in the final hours," Hadley said.
Kindred Spirit can be reached at 573-208-9600.