Animal shelters fill up in down times

Saturday, January 3, 2009 | 4:41 p.m. CST

SIKESTON — Tough economic times are filling up not only homeless shelters but animal shelters as well.

Lanette Baker, director of the Sikeston Area Humane Society, said local residents are giving up their pets due to financial pressures.

"We've got quite a few dogs because people are losing their jobs, and it's between feeding their dog or feeding their kids," she said.

Others are faced with finding homes for themselves and are unable to take a pet with them, Baker said. "People are being evicted from their homes, either losing their homes to foreclosure or being kicked out of rentals," she said.

Baker said shelters also are getting pets from pet suppliers.

"The bottom has gone out of the pet market," she said. "We have tons of breeders going out of business. Puppies were selling for a quarter."

Not only are more pets coming into shelters, but in most cases, fewer are going out as hard economic times also means fewer pet adoptions.

"We've been lucky this month: We've adopted out more dogs than we normally would have," Baker said. "But I reach out to more than our local area; I reach out as far as I can. Somebody drove up from Memphis Saturday to get a Malamute I had."

Baker said she has someone coming from Texas this weekend for another dog at the facility.

But the combination of lots of pets coming in and few being adopted out is causing some shelters to turn away people who want to drop off pets. Baker said the shelters are doing their best not to turn people away.

"We stay full, but we take in as many animals as we can. That's what we're there for," Baker said. "We want to supply the best care we can for the animals. In an emergency situation, we do what we can."

Baker said those who know they will be unable to keep their pets should make plans for them in advance.

"A lot of people wait until the last minute to figure out what they are going to do with their pets," she said. "Most people know a couple weeks before they get evicted."

Those who are considering getting a pet are encouraged to check with the shelter first.

"We've got a whole bunch of really nice animals at the shelter that need homes," Baker said.

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