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Caring for MORE with less: Needy animals feel pinch of tight economy

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TribLocal Aurora
By Linda Kane, A.D.O.P.T. volunteer
December 20, 2010

Traveler, the kitty, spent 1 1/2 years at A.D.O.P.T. before finding a permanent, loving home. Donations alone fund the shelter's services (Photo by J. Potts).

Needy animals exist everywhere. Consider...

Fievel, a kitty found in a carrier in the front of Boulder Terrace Animal Hospital. A note inside the carrier read, “She’s 18 years old, she’s sick, I can’t take care of her anymore”

or

Polly, who contracted a bad virus which caused her gums to become inflamed and her teeth weak. The teeth had to be extracted.

or

Traveler, a cat that spent 1½ years at the shelter, adopted a couple of times and returned.

Sad stories about needy animals abound, but many, such as these three, do end happily with the animals finding permanent loving homes.

Finding a good home would be impossible, however, without the support of no-kill, non-profit animal shelters like Naperville’s Animals Deserving of Proper Treatment (A.D.O.P.T.). Donations alone fund the shelter’s services.

“This is not your typical shelter,” said Chris Stirn, medical services coordinator. “Everybody is willing to go above and beyond to do whatever it takes [for the animals].”

But going above and beyond can become difficult in today’s strained economy.

Rich Glessner, A.D.O.P.T.’s director of operations, said that between 18-30 percent of other animal shelters’ donations have dropped significantly. “Although our numbers went down, they went down minimally,” he said.

“We are limited to the number of animals that come through our door just because of space, but we’ve had to turn away more than we’ve ever had to turn away,” Glessner said. “Now more often than ever, you’ll see a large percentage of people wanting to release animals for financial reasons.“

Glessner said A.D.O.P.T. used to take 50 cats each month from Aurora Animal Control; now the shelter takes fewer than 20 because cat adoptions have declined as a result of a poor economy.

Operating Solely on Donations

Since cats outnumber dogs 4-1, the shelter requires four times the amount of food, cleaning supplies and litter, just for the cats. “If you use it in your house, we use it here for the animals,” he said.

Glessner said A.D.O.P.T. uses 800-1,000 pounds of litter per week.

“People don’t really grasp how much it takes to run a [shelter],” he said, adding that A.D.O.P.T.’s 2011 budget will require $45,250 per month to operate the building. This number includes paying 15 staff members, mostly part-time, minimum wage.

“That’s approximately $1,500 per day, just to keep the door open,” Glessner said. “We already operate at a bare-bones minimum.”

In a typical day, three staff members care for 40 dogs, and another three staff members care for 125 cats. All others helping the animals are volunteers. “We could use 20-25 volunteers a day, he said.

Community Support Needed

A.D.O.P.T. President Sandy Boston said fundraising has “taken a bit of a hit this year.” Although the shelter’s biggest fundraiser, May’s walkathon, has grown in the number of participants, it has declined in the number of pledges and donations.

Last year’s walk netted $62,000; this year’s only $52,500.

Glessner said he “hopes and prays that in 2011, things will start turning around and picking up because if [this downturn] continues, the animals are going to suffer.”

Boston said that veterinarian care is the shelter—s greatest expense followed by payroll, which is related to animal care.

“We would either have to cut back on animals or cut back on the special-needs animals that are more costly,” she said. “And that is just not our philosophy.”

How to Help

Those wishing to help the shelter need look no farther than A.D.O.P.T.’s website (www.adoptpetshelter.org) where they will find a “wish list” of needed supplies as well as an application form for a $39 yearly membership to the organization.

In addition, anyone wishing to donate financially may restrict donations to specific needs. “If people really want to provide food, they can give like $100 and say, ‘This is to be earmarked to provide food,’” Glessner said.

All contributions are tax deductible for the current fiscal year.

“People who cannot afford their animals don’t realize what it costs the shelter to care for those animals,“ Glessner said. “It’s mind boggling.

“If you are fortunate enough to be unaffected by the economy and have the means to help shelters, and if you have a passion for animals, please consider helping.”

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