Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

No increase in pet surrenders after holidays, says area animal shelters

Additional stray animals, mostly cats, crowd local animal shelters
Jan 04, 2018
Photo by: Grace King Dawn Hauck, director at Noah’s Ark Animal Foundation in Fairfield, makes sure even the most timid cats get the love they deserve. The animal shelter is always struggling to find enough room for homeless cats, although they currently have fewer dogs than usual.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Although across the country animal shelters report an increase in pet surrenders after the holidays, local animal shelters say they haven’t seen an increase in rural Iowa.

The sudden, sometimes unexpected commitment of owning a pet after receiving it as a Christmas gift can be a factor in the slight spike in pet surrenders in the early months of the year, but in Washington and Fairfield, there are fewer animal intakes in the winter.

Noah’s Ark Animal Foundation in Fairfield did have one pet surrender this week, however. A man brought in his six-and-a-half year Bassador named Roxie, saying she was too aggressive to be around his children. In situations like that, director of Noah’s Ark Dawn Hauck said she just listens and tries to be understanding.

“We have to make sure pets we take in are adoptable,” Hauck said, explaining that if the Bassador continues to show signs of aggression they will return it to the owner. “I could never do that to Charlie,” she continued as she pointed to the large dog sleeping under her desk at her feet.

Another dog in their care, Jemma, was also an owner surrender. She came in as a puppy — mostly unsocialized, Hauck said. But walking up to her kennel, Jemma greeted visitors with a shy wag and tried to lick their hands through the fence.

Even with those two surrenders, Noah’s Ark is low on dogs — although they always have an influx of cats, a problem every shelter seems to have. Currently, Noah’s Ark only has five dogs when usually they have 15 in their care.

Carmen Rea, animal caretaker at Paws & More Animal Shelter in Washington, said that the shelter is responsible for the stray animals in Washington County — that is their first priority. For those seeking to surrender their pet to the shelter for various reasons, they are put on a waiting list until there is space at the shelter to take in the animal.

Rea also couldn’t say whether or not there were more adoptions during the holidays this year. Having hosted two adoption promotions from October to December, the data is skewed on how many people came in to adopt pets from Paws & More in 2017.

Heavenly Pet Sanctuary, in Fairfield, also said they don’t see an increase in pet surrenders, but there are more stray animals to take in during the winter.

“When the cold weather hits, there are more strays coming in,” said Laura Conti, executive director at Heavenly Pet Sanctuary in Fairfield. “As far as owner surrenders go, we limit that here … We’re mostly concerned with rescues. Animals that don’t have any place to go rather than people who just changed their mind.”

Conti said that an increase in pet surrenders might be the case in bigger shelters in bigger cities, but the Sanctuary limits the number of surrendered animals they let through their doors. She said that when adopting, people need to consider the potentially 15-year commitment and take it very seriously.

One of the most important things Conti looks for in potential adopters is whether people are in the position or have the disposition to keep pets long-term. Currently, they have a dog at the shelter that is 17-years-old.

“The thing that’s very unfortunate is when people give away their older pets,” Conti said. “It’s like mom going to a nursing home.”

Conti said the Sanctuary frequently gets requests to take in cats that are 10 or more years old. For cats, many of whom have grown up in a single-pet home, it’s hard on them to be moved to a facility like this where they have to learn how to get along with other animals.

“That’s not kind to bring your cat to the shelter when you’ve been with them their whole life,” Conti said.

Rea reiterated that owning a pet is a commitment for their lifetime. They should become a family member, and that isn’t replaceable. “We notice a lot of times people will bring their pets here and have the mentality that they’re kind of disposable,” Rea said, adding that animals can’t be disposed of like a toy.

Rea said that for the most part, people applying for adoption from Paws & More seem pretty prepared to take on a pet. The small percentage of people who are first-time owners or have less experience are given education through the shelter.

During their cat adoption promotions at the end of 2017, Rea said that even though the promotions are held because the shelter is too crowded, they still go through an extensive application process. “We don’t just hand out cats to anyone,” she said.

For new pet owners, Conti stressed making sure they are feeding their new family member a high-quality food. Other advice she gave was to make sure a cat’s litter box is in an easily-found location. Kittens will go to the bathroom on the floor if they can’t find the litter box and with their short memory spans, it could be a hard habit to change, Conti said.

For cats, not declawing them is important. “It’s a very painful procedure that has really fallen out of favor,” Conti said. “They suffer psychological trauma as well as physical trauma. It changes their personalities.”

The results of declawing a cat are lifelong, causing a loss of muscle tone in their feet as they age so they cannot stand up or walk properly. Alternatives to declawing cats is to provide the proper scratching post, cutting nails instead of removing them and explore alternatives like soft paws nail caps as a last resort.

For dogs, make sure they get enough exercise and that they’re not just kenneled all the time, especially in the frigid weather.

The cold temperatures make it a little harder for the shelters as well as pet owners who are trying to give their animals enough exercise and attention. It’s more work when animals are confined indoors, Conti said.

At Paws & More, Rea said the nonprofit employees already don’t have time to hang out with the animals after spending time taking care of them. “The main thing is if you want to help out your local shelter, the best thing is to ask them if there is anything specific they need,” she said. “Even just coming in and volunteering.”

Rea said they usually get steady donations of towels, blankets and beds and always have a good amount of regular adult food on hand for the animals, but are in high demand for kitten food.

At Surrender, Conti said they could always use household supplies like dish soap, laundry soap, paper towels and anything used at home. Although they do take food donations, they prefer to get premium food for their animals, and they are always in need of cat litter. “We don’t ever get enough cat litter,” she said.

Conti is also concerned for the animals who haven’t been found and taken to a shelter in this cold weather. She would like to see more people to put out food for those who don’t have a home, especially feral cats.

“They may not be tame, but they still need food,” Conti said. “Don’t just think. ‘If I don’t feed it, it will go away.’ Maybe it will, but don’t think that if you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.”

“Never abandon your animals,” Conti said, leaving with one last thought. “It’s the cruelest thing.”

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