Six-month-old Smooches was rushed into Oktibbeha County Humane Society last month suffering from extreme heat exhaustion, and she was given just a 25 percent chance of survival.
Today, Smooches is a happy pup despite the circumstances that brought her to the humane society, and she is available for adoption. Stories like Smooches’ are becoming all to familiar to OCHS and other area humane societies.
This summer, though, the volume of animals shelters like OCHS and Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society have taken in make everything else pale in comparison. Both shelters took in more than 200 animals in June alone.
CLHS outreach coordinator Brandy Johnson said among the uptick in animals coming in are lost pets that are never being claimed.
“Some are strays, some are lost pets, and many are owner surrenders,” Johnson said. “Last month, we admitted over 200 animals to our facility (on top of what we already had in our possession). This month, we’ve already admitted over 50. … We are steadily seeing an increase in lost pets, many of which are never claimed by their owners.”
There are many reasons humane societies take in animals. OCHS is an open-door shelter, which means they take every animal brought to them from Oktibbeha County, regardless of their potential for survival or adoption.
Oftentimes, shelters that are deemed as “no-kill” shelters are unable to take in animals that have a lower chance of survival, like Smooches, according to OCHS social media manager Courtney Krolikoski.
“Anyone who can take in any animal is doing the right thing, regardless of ‘no-kill’ status or not,” Krolikoski said. “However, I think shelters that aren’t ‘no-kill’ (like OCHS) get a bad reputation, but people don’t often understand that ‘no-kill’ shelters sometimes are limited on what animals they can take in. For example, some shelters wouldn’t take in animals with low survival odds and some don’t take in pit bulls. As an open-door shelter, we don’t say ‘no’ to any animal.”
OCHS has a live release rate of 95.2 percent, and according to the Humane Society of the United States, live release rates are “calculated by dividing total live outcomes — adoptions, outgoing transfers, and return to owner or guardian — by total outcomes (total live outcomes plus euthanasia) not including owner or guardian requested euthanasia or died/lost in shelter/care.”
OCHS has a special program that many Golden Triangle rescues and humane societies benefit from where animals are shipped up north to places like Massachusetts, Maine, Washington and more recently Nova Scotia.
Animals from CLHS, West Point, Amory, Louisville and other surrounding areas are shipped to shelters across the country where laws for pet owners are more strict and there is a high demand for pets, according to transport coordinator Camille Cotton.
“Where we have a high supply of pets and not enough people to adopt, the people up north have a high amount of people who want to adopt but not enough pets to fill homes,” Cotton said. “That’s where we come in. Sometimes pets go in planes, and sometimes they go in cars, but we make sure the pet is going where they will be loved and cared for.”
Battling the heat
It is no easy feat to stay cool in summer, especially in Mississippi. For fluffy and furry animals, it can be even harder.
For shelters with outdoor facilities, the animals get large fans, lots of ice water and plenty of opportunities to stay cool.
“We have the big fans going on our adult dogs outside,” Krolikoski said. “Puppies don’t go outside because they can’t handle the heat just yet.
The dogs get ice water regularly, and they get ice on the floor of their kennels which is so funny and cute to watch. They’re so happy, and they turn into puppies again. It keeps them enriched but also keeps them cool.”
However, if it is too hot outside with heat indices over 110, the volunteers and shelter staff find ways to bring the animals inside.
The funding for OCHS comes from both the city and county governments as well as private donors. The shelter also receives some funds from the Bissell Pet Foundation, who they work with for adoption events and other pet services.
OCHS is working to raise enough money to have their funds matched by BPF in order to expand their indoor kennels for all dogs to be able to stay inside during extreme heat and cold.
“They are going to match us $20,000 to help us build an extension that will be about $40,000,” Krolikoski said. “With this extension, our goal is to be able to move the animals outside indoors. We will still keep the outdoor kennels, but it will help tremendously to have the dogs all inside.”
CLHS, like OCHS, is funded in similar ways.
“CLHS is funded by public donations and grants received for programs such as (feral cat trap, neuter, release) and our Dogs on Duty outreach program, where we travel to schools, nursing homes, and other groups providing education on our role in the community, our spay and neuter program, proper pet care, and pet therapy,” Johnson said.
How to help
Adopting is one of the easiest ways to help, but for those who cannot adopt, there are other ways to lend a helping hand.
The option to foster is a good one for people who want a pet in the house but cannot afford it either in time or through funds. Humane societies will provide the care, food and other items to take care of a pet while fostering, and it is completely voluntary to the foster’s schedule, according to Krolikoski.
All shelters take monetary and supply donations, and many are looking for volunteers to help out with everyday operations.
“It’s a community problem with a community solution,” Krolikoski said. “The people here in Oktibbeha County really rally behind us, and there are even kids who have birthday parties and ask their friends to bring a can of dog food when they come. … Volunteering here may not be glamorous some days, like we may ask the volunteers to do a load of laundry when they come in, but then they get to play with the dogs and cats, which helps the animals and the volunteers so much.”
Applications for volunteering and fostering can be found on each humane societies’ website.
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