Springfield shelters remind people that animals aren’t presents

Bagel the beagle at the RescueOne medical clinic on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. RescueOne along with other shelters want to remind people that pets are not presents.

The weeks leading up to the holidays are busy for animal shelters.

McKenzie Palmer, marketing coordinator for the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri, said that animals come in faster than they can be adopted out. Both RescueOne’s medical clinic and the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri have animals in every available space, including offices and bathrooms.

“We are all at capacity. We are all overflowing. We all have waitlists right now to take animals in, because we are all out of space. Every one of these babies that goes home, we want to do everything we can to ensure this is the best fit,” said Erin Hession, director of administration for HSSWMO.

Vet tech Dalynn Smith holds Chili the dog after veterinarian Kelsey Keisker-Boessen took a heart worm test at the RescueOne medical clinic on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. RescueOne along with other shelters want to remind people that pets are not presents.

But things don’t slow down after the holidays.

“We see the Christmas puppies. The puppies that people get as gifts for someone else that isn’t necessarily ready to commit to that, and they accept the puppy and deal with it for a little bit, and then it becomes a 6- to 9-month-old puppy with lots of energy and they probably haven’t invested the training in it because they weren’t expecting it, and then we end up with them,” said Colby Hodges, a veterinary technician with RescueOne.

In order to reduce the number of animals returned after the holidays, reduce trauma to the animals, and help ease the crisis they’re facing, local rescues are asking people to reconsider gifting a puppy or a kitten — or other animal — this holiday season.

Finley the cat at the RescueOne medical clinic on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. RescueOne along with other shelters want to remind people that pets are not presents.

From bathrooms to breakrooms, shelters are overflowing with animals

As of Thursday, the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri had about 300 animals. RescueOne, a foster-based organization that houses a limited number of animals at its medical clinic, had 416 in its care.

According to Sherri Jones, a veterinary technician with RescueOne, the organization is seeing an unprecedented situation, with 100 more animals than they had last year.

“This is the first time we’ve ever had to turn off our emergency phone,” Jones said. “I think we’re almost at a place where we can start taking emergencies again (for dogs), but not quite.”

Cages holding cats at the RescueOne medical clinic on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. RescueOne along with other shelters want to remind people that pets are not presents.

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Hodges added that on the cat side of RescueOne, it’s been like that all year.

“We stay so full with cats that are found as strays or that people can’t care for when they’re injured or sick that we can’t even take in surrenders,” Hodges said.

However, no matter how many rescues there are in the area, the animal overpopulation won’t stop until owners begin taking responsibility.

“We’re all emotionally exhausted. Rescues are not going to stop the overpopulation problem in this area, period. Rescues and shelters are not the solution,” Hodges said. “People need to start taking responsibility: If you get an animal, spay/neuter and get vaccines. That’s the easiest place to start.”

RescueOne kennel tech Emma Bonnette holds Starburst the cat at the RescueOne medical clinic on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. RescueOne along with other shelters want to remind people that pets are not presents.

A pet is a 10- to 15-year commitment, not a gift

While shelters may be overflowing and looking for potential adopters, they emphasize that an animal is not a gift.

“Pets aren’t gifts, and they require a 10- to 15-year commitment physically, emotionally and financially,” Palmer said. “You have to keep that in mind, really do your research, and talk everything through before making that commitment, because it isn’t a Christmas gift.”

Starburst the cat at the RescueOne medical clinic on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. RescueOne along with other shelters want to remind people that pets are not presents.

Rather than simply getting someone an animal, Hodges encourages them to have a conversation, making sure it’s something they want and are financially prepared for. Especially with animals for children, consider what is going to happen when the child goes to college, gets married or moves into an apartment — will Fluffy or Spot go with, or will they stay with mom and dad?