Kaylee Schuermann Globe Gazette
The Humane Society of North Iowa is one of two animal shelters in Mason City that identifies as a no-kill shelter, but some struggles come with this title.
Being a no-kill shelter means that it will not euthanize animals due to the lack of space.
According to Sybil Soukup, the Humane Society of North Iowa’s executive director, 4 million to 6 million animals nationwide are euthanized every year due to pet overpopulation. As one of Iowa’s largest no-kill shelters, the Humane Society approved 185 reclaimed pets and 253 animal adoptions last year.
Soukup believes more people are willing to release their pets to the Humane Society because they know they are safe from euthanization. However, this creates complications with shelter space, particularly with cats, since they are adopted less frequently than dogs. Soukup stated that the shelter is experiencing an influx of cat admissions, explaining that spring is when many cats have litters in the natural breeding cycle.
The shelter usually holds 60-80 cats, claiming it is “rarely in a situation where they can take cats,” according to Soukup. Owners who cannot take their cats in a move often wait until the last minute before asking the shelter to take them in. The long waiting list forces the Humane Society to decline cats frequently.
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Stray animals found in the community are picked up by an animal control officer and taken to the Mason City Stray Animal Shelter, which is housed in the same building as the Humane Society. Owners have seven days to reclaim their animals before being put out for adoption. Aggressive animals or those with irreversible health issues become candidates for humane euthanization.
“We need people to be good and responsible pet owners,” said David Houser, community safety supervisor at the Mason City Police Department. “Pet owners need to tie them up or keep them in a fenced yard.”
The shelter also faces the challenges of not having an on-site surgical suite, requiring all animals to be taken to local vets for examination, neutering and vaccines. Pets can be adopted after veterinary care. The Humane Society loses money with adoption fees that cost $100-$250, while each vet visit costs roughly $400.
The shelter attempts to offset the financial loss through federal grants and fundraising. “We want to make the adoption option an affordable one for people to be able to say, ‘Oh, I can get a dog from the Humane Society for $200 and all the vet work is done’ versus if you go to a breeder, you may pay $600-$700 and still have to pay $300-$400 of vet work on your own,” said Soukup.
The shelter uses an application process to ask detailed questions regarding pet-owner situations and home-life details and requires all other pets in the future home to be neutered and up-to-date on vaccines. The owner must also own a home or obtain the landlord’s permission. Soukup said some people looking to adopt another pet get upset with the rule requiring other house pets to be neutered and explained that this is an attempt to reduce the number of shelter overpopulation euthanizations.
Most shelters, particularly large ones, focus on an animal’s turn-around time from the moment it enters the facility to when it leaves; however, the Humane Society believes in committing itself to finding quality homes for its animals. “We want animals to find their homes quickly, but we don’t want to put them in any old home,” said Soukup.
“We just want to make sure that the pet you’re adopting is going to be a good fit for you and a good fit for them because it’s intended to be a forever home for the pet.”
Kaylee Schuermann is a reporter for the Globe Gazette, covering community interest stories in Clear Lake, Garner and Forest City. Follow her on Twitter: @KPSchuermann