Much like rescues throughout the area, the Shawnee Animal Shelter is overflowing with dogs and cats and has a small staff.
According to Kesha Miller, one of two full-time Animal Welfare Officers, the Shawnee shelter receives calls daily regarding animals in the area.
“Here at the shelter we come in about eight o’clock. We’ll clean and feed all the animals whether it’s cats (or) dogs…,” Miller said.
Miller said it's her job to patrol the streets for strays and deceased animals and ensure the city is running smoothly regarding its animal population.
However, about three to four years ago the shelter went from euthanizing animals through a gas chamber on a regular basis to a low-kill shelter only euthanizing animals who are sick or overly aggressive.
While they no longer euthanize to free up space, Miller said the shelter struggles to maintain the animal population.
“It’s rough right now. People are no longer spaying and neutering their pets like they once were, so populations are growing,” Miller said. “We can only house so many, so until people start spaying and neutering, we’re going to continue having strays running around.”
Miller explained the shelter only has 26 kennels: six are for legal holds such as abuse cases, six are for owner surrenders and 14 are for stray pickups.
With such limited space, Miller said the shelter is almost always at full capacity and the day-to-day work of patrolling and caring for the animals is quite challenging.
“We’re trying to communicate to the community it’s not that we don’t want to help it’s our options are limited. When we’re full there’s nothing we can really do,” Miller said. “It becomes a challenge because I understand the community is frustrated but our hands just become tied.”
Similar to the rescues, officers like Miller and others associated with the shelter urge the community to spay and neuter their pets as well as take more responsibility for their animals.
“Start taking care of your pets. If it needs to go to the vet take it to the vet. Don’t just kick it loose because you know there’s something going on with it. Until we start treating our pets a little better and start taking care of them, it’s just going to be a continuous thing,” Miller said. Volunteer at the Shawnee Animal Shelter Craig Ljungquist shares Miller’s opinion and passion. Several weeks ago, Ljungquist said he drove by the shelter and decided to step up and volunteer. “I thought they could use some help and I was correct they could really use some help,” Ljungquist said.
The volunteer said when he gets the opportunity he goes to the shelter to feed the dogs, clean out their kennels, take them for walks and give them a chance to stretch their legs.
He and his wife also help groom the dogs to make them more adoptable.
“Just from being here I’ve seen it’s kind of a revolving door. I’ve seen a couple of the dogs come back. So even when they go out, they come back,” Ljungquist said.
The volunteer said he’s seen how challenging it is for employees at the shelter to maintain both the facility and the streets of Shawnee.
“I’m not really sure people understand what’s going on in their community-that there’s a lot of dogs and cats and such-that really aren’t being taken care of at their homes…,” Ljungquist said.
Ljungquist said when the dogs see him they’re always excited and jumping up and down.
“When I come in, they are overjoyed to see me…,” the volunteer said. “It’s wagging tails and they’re barking because they’re excited…They know I’m coming to let them out.”
He explained it’s sad to see such kind and loyal creatures without a family to care and love them.
“It breaks my heart really because these animals have a lot of love to give and they don’t know why they’re here,” Ljungquist said.
Ljungquist said he is one of the only volunteers the shelter sees on a regular basis and they can really use more help.
The volunteer also urges people to spay and neuter their pets and take better care of their cats and dogs.
Miller said the shelter is currently looking for a third Animal Welfare Officer.
For more information on the shelter call (405) 878-1531.