Wichita to the Rescue

Story By MeLinda Schnyder - Photography By Scott Elpers 

The good news in Wichita regarding animal welfare: Fewer pets are being euthanized.
    The bad news in Wichita regarding animal welfare: There’s still overpopulation resulting in thousands of dogs, cats and other domesticated pets being euthanized before finding a place to live.
    There are fewer deaths because the long-standing Kansas Humane Society is working more efficiently and because in the past decade many more privately funded nonprofit groups have started to work on behalf of the animals.
    There is still an overpopulation problem because too many people do not get their dogs and cats spayed or neutered, or are unprepared for pet ownership.
    Whether you’re a pet owner or simply an animal lover, you can be part of the solution. The rescue groups all have a similar plea to the Wichita community:
“Be aware of what happens in our city. Help one of your local rescue groups, it doesn’t matter which one. Donating, sponsoring, fostering, sharing our posts on social media – help us do what we are doing,” said Randi Carter, who helps run Beauties and Beasts, a death row rescue group.
    Here’s a look at what three nonprofit groups are doing to rescue animals in our community.

                                                                       Kansas Humane Society
    The Kansas Humane Society is Wichita’s largest privately funded, nonprofit animal shelter organization. Since 2009, it has been located next to the Wichita Animal Shelter on the Murfin Animal Care Campus at K-96 and Hillside. 
    The city-run Wichita Animal Shelter is the major holding facility for lost or stray pets in Sedgwick County and can hold 170 dogs and 252 cats at one time. State law requires the shelter to hold an animal for three days to give owners time to claim lost pets, and the shelter generally keeps them another three days to allow rescue organizations to plan how to get the animal adopted.
    Both organizations said that being located side-by-side improves their collaboration and helps more pets, pet owners, adopters and the community.
    KHS offer pets for adoption, dog training classes, spay/neuter services, humane education, programs for kids, volunteer and foster opportunities. The organization’s save rate has improved every year since the new building opened in 2009 and reached 87 percent last year.
    “That doesn’t mean the problem is going away,” said Emily Griffin, Kansas Humane Society’s director of marketing and communications. “We’ve just become more efficient at what we are doing.”
    In 2016, KHS euthanized 1,588 animals – 663 dogs, 910 cats and 15 small mammals – and adopted out 8,420 animals. Another 1,451 went to animal rescue organizations.

                      Beauties and Beasts
    Amy Haggested started Beauties and Beasts in September 2014 and Randi Carter joined her seven months later. A stray pit bull found by her daughter changed Haggested’s perception of the breed and opened her eyes to overpopulation. “She’d driven past these buildings often and had no idea all of these dogs were in here dying,” Carter said.
While Haggested had the motivation, Carter had the training to evaluate and work with shelter dogs. Now 29, Carter owns All Dogs Bark-N-Play boarding and training facility and has worked with dogs since she was 18 years old.
    Beauties and Beasts is considered a death row rescue, meaning it comes in at the eleventhe hour and stray pit bull found by her daughter changed Haggested’s perception of the breed and opened her eyes to overpopulation. “She’d driven past these buildings often and had no idea all of these dogs were in here dying,” Carter said.
    While Haggested had the motivation, Carter had the training to evaluate and work with shelter dogs. Now 29, Carter owns All Dogs Bark-N-Play boarding and training facility and has worked with dogs since she was 18 years old.
    Beauties and Beasts is considered a death row rescue, meaning it comes in at the eleventh hour and takes dogs that are set for euthanasia. 
    “Kansas Humane Society used to have 50 percent pit bulls, now they only allow 30 percent,” Carter said. “That’s where we come in. We go in and evaluate the dogs, pull them into our rescue and Amy is an amazing marketer. She posts photos and videos on Facebook and she reaches out to other rescues beyond Wichita.”
    Some of the dogs they take are passed over by others because of a false sense of aggression, Carter said. 
    “These are wonderful dogs that are afraid of the shelter,” she said. “They’ve been thrown into a cage and they show fear aggression. I’m able to go in there and handle them to evaluate them and get them out of those conditions. Our goal is to give these animals a chance, a chance to be different and to show who they really are.”
    While many of the 700 dogs they’ve rescued in the past two-and-a-half years have been pit bull mixes, they handle all breeds as well as some cats and other domesticated animals. They are an all-volunteer organization with about 60 active volunteers.

                 K-9 Karma Animal Advocates
    K-9 Karma Animal Advocates often takes pit bulls, medical cases and pregnant dogs that are passed over by others. It rescues about 125 adult dogs and anywhere from 75 to 150 puppies each year.
Debbie and Curt Farrington started the organization in 2010. Debbie died in 2015 and board member Jessica Sherwood has helped Curt keep the rescue group running, along with about 20 volunteers and community support.
    “Without support and donations from the community, dogs like Gator wouldn’t have a chance,” Sherwood said while petting a pit bull mix, one of three strays rescued from the Wichita Animal Shelter by K-9 Karma and Beauties and Beasts. The dogs’ owner had neglected them and they were underweight, full of worms and had developed severe noncontagious mange.
    “Even with all he’s been through, he’s the sweetest dog,” she said as she found a clear patch on Gator’s red, swollen skin to gently pet.
    The 3-year-old will take $600 to $800 in treatment costs and about four months to become a healthy, adoptable dog. Sherwood, a former vet tech who quit her job to devote more time to pet rescue, will care for him for the first month, then a foster will take him to complete his medical treatment and work on manners before he’s eligible for adoption.
    The public sometimes misunderstands the policies of rescue groups, questioning why there are adoption fees and processes to follow. The fees collected only partially cover the expenses incurred by the groups caring for the animals, considering that many require medical treatment or stay in foster care for a while. Both Carter and Sherwood said the adoption process – often including a home visit to ensure a fenced yard and verification that the owner has a relationship with a veterinarian – is meant to ensure the pet owner is prepared to offer a long-term home.
    “Our policies are in place to make sure it’s a good match so that the animals don’t feel the neglect or unwantedness they’ve already gone through,” Sherwood said. “We all have the same goal – to find these animals forever homes.”

                                                                Wichita-area animal rescue groups
    A number of volunteer-based, licensed rescue organizations have formed in the Wichita area to fill the gap created by a lack of resources at city and county agencies. Most have websites and Facebook pages to share their adoptable animals and fundraising activities. There are also
breed-specific groups in addition to these organizations:

Beauties and Beasts, beautiesandbeasts.org
Hands of Hope Rescue, handsofhoperescue.com
Kansas Humane Society, kshumane.org
K-9 Karma Animal Advocates, ksdogrescue.com
Lifeline Animal Placement and Protection, lifelineanimalplacement.org
PALS Animal Rescue, palsrescue.org
Wichita Animal Action League, waalrescue.org