Animal Shelter of the Week: Episode 44 – Humane Society of Greater Kansas City

The Humane Society of Greater Kansas City was founded in 1912 and became the first no-kill shelter in the area in 1994. Their low-cost spay and neuter and veterinary care clinic save and improve the lives of thousands of animals every year. They provide much-needed care and services for the animals in their community– and their work is never done. The staff and volunteers at the shelter will continue to show compassion to the animals and provide for them to ensure they are ready for their new potential families.


Website: http://hsgkc.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSGKC/

Welcome to the ARPA Animal Shelter of the Week podcast where we introduce you to incredible organizations around the country that are focused on helping animals. We’re proud to be sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal shelter.

The Humane Society of Greater Kansas City was founded in 1912 but became the first no-kill shelter in the area in 1994. They’re very excited to celebrate over 100 years of faithful service to the lost, abandoned and broken pets within Greater Kansas City. The mission for the shelter is to save and improve the lives of dogs and cats throughout their community by providing veterinary care, and spay and neuter services.

Hi, Sheena. Welcome to the show. Hi. How are you? I’m doing well, how are you doing today? I am doing great. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. You are the Director of Development at the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, is that correct? Yes, I am! Perfect. You’re ready to go. I love the enthusiasm. So can you just start with telling me a little bit more about your organization? So our mission is to save/improve the lives of dogs and cats throughout the greater Kansas City community. By providing preventative veterinary care, and spay and neuter services, education, and adoptions. So we have a wide breath of things that we do. We’re different from other animal shelters, where we’re not just about the adoptions. We also have a affordable wellness clinic inside our shelter, too. Having a pet can be expensive, ranging from even just from basic vaccines to if some thing’s really does go wrong with your animal or an injury happens. And not everyone has the funds for that. But everyone deserves to have a dog, or a cat, or whatever they would like to have in a companion. And so we provide affordable care to those individuals. It seems like you’re very passionate about what you guys do, and you guys have a wide variety of things that you offer aside from adoptions. You know, adoptions is always that big picture, but it’s great that you guys offer, you know, other things.

So, I kind of wanna ask a little bit about you. And what is a day like in your shoes? And how did you get started with this organization? The days are crazy. Well, my welfare journey began many, many years ago. I started in this local shelter called Animal Haven, which was really small in our community and I started working in the kennels. I was actually 18 when I started, and I just kind of worked my way up through it. And in that process, I got to know our leadership team and they’re like, “Hey, you should try development like you get along with people really well and speak well.” And so I was like, “Okay.” And that kind of started my development career. And Vince and I have gone all over across the spectrum of non profits in the area. And now I have found a way back to animal welfare, which I had missed so much. He recently started at the Humane Society. So it’s only been three months, so I am very excited to be back. When I walked into the shelter, I actually told my boss, Kate, like, “Oh, it’s still even smells the same.” Isn’t that funny how you can distinguish stuff like that?

The day at the Humane Society. Anything can happen. We have the affordable clinic going on, so we have a lot of people coming and going. We try to structure our hours. It’s from nine until noon that our clinic is open. And then after that, our veterinary staff and our technicians focus on the shelter dogs. We have a lot of interesting people that come through our doors. We’re in an urban area, so things can be a little interesting. Always, there’s dogs coming through. I was in the shelter earlier today and I walked in and I had a sixty-pound lab in my office. I was like “Hey!” And the team were like, “Can he hang out with you?” And I was like, “OK.” In the back of office, we have a shelter cat, her name is Moon Pie, so she hangs around with us. There’s always cats everywhere. Dogs everywhere. When you walk into our front lobby even behind the front desk. we usually have like three or four dogs. They’re just hanging out, while everything else is going on. And it’s so much fun. It just love it. And we all have a really fun, playful personality. So we’re like a family. It all just flows together. And every second of the day they’re busy. So a lot of times I have to escape back to my home to actually be able to get things done. But that is pretty much a day in the life at the Humane Society. It just seems like you guys have a great atmosphere over there, and it kind of makes me jealous because I’m over here with a smile on my face. I’m like, “Hey, I want to go over there!” Like, that is so awesome to hear.

And I kind of want to touch base with you because you have mentioned that you guys were in an urban area. So can you kind of hone in on that and tell me a little bit about your community? And is there any particular challenges for animals in your area? We are in the Kansas City Metro Area, but that is a very vast area. It covers, like five counties. We’re located in Wyandotte County. Wyandotte County, there are areas that are more economically advanced as well as half of it is low income, so we kind of have a lot of diversity going on a long time ago, just against with the specifics. There was and big housing crisis in Wyandotte. This is like 30 years ago, and it caused a red market. So there’s not a lot of development that has happened in Wyandotte County, thus creating a more urban economic environment.

With these challenges, as mentioned before, people can’t afford the expense of going to a private veterinary clinic to get $230 for their vaccines, or $365 to get their teeth cleaned or, God forbid, something awful happens. A surgery that’s thousands. We’re able to be right there for our neighbors and welcome them in, as well as, everyone across the metro, to provide these care. We have a Spanish speaking staff and so we’re able to then also reach out to that community, too. Which it’s kind of hard to break through the different cultures and to be able to provide services for them that they understand. When we work in the city urban areas, individuals have problems affording there, that services. They typically do not get vaccines going back to costing like $230 they’ll forego getting vaccines and then what ends up happening is the puppy gets Parvo. And that can go a multiple different ways. One being, they abandon the dog and we ended up getting it, or they bring the dog to us and it’s hanging on, or it just ends up going without care. So at the same time, what we’re doing with this community is educating them that we are here, we are affordable. We will even waive fees if you can’t afford it so that we can prevent this from happening. So every dog is vaccinated. Every cat is seen and examined. We have a huge TNR (trap and release program), that we do every month for the community to come through. And we try to get sponsors every month for that so the community doesn’t have to pay for feral surgeries. The sponsorship were able to cover all the costs for that. So the community doesn’t have to pay the $15 spay fee or neuter fee. Whatever big goals is, there is an issue with transportation for some, and so we would love to have a way to get mobile van. So we could do vaccines and go around the community and be present for those who may not be able to come, or the elderly, or so forth. So we’re very in tune with our community, we’re really proud to be Wyandotte. We’re called “the dot”. I love that you were able to kind of give me a very specific demographic about it.

So that kind of leaves me into what kind of programs do you offer for your community? I know that you just mentioned the mobile van, which is a goal of your guys is. You mentioned the TNR. So I’m intrigued and I kind of want to know more, what else do you guys have to offer? So one of the big programs is called Ray of Hope. It’s our general operating program, but it really stemmed from 2009 when we partnered with our animal control department. It’s now called KCK Animal Services. What was happening was, they were basically a pound. They did do a few adoptions, but really they had a euthanasia rate of about 80%. Nor did they have any way to examine the dogs or cats as they came through, to make sure that they were okay, if they were ill or, you know, for example, got hit by a car. We have had dogs and cats come in that have bullet holes in them, and they had no way of treating that. So we came through and partnered and became their veterinary care for them. So we send our vets over there to examine the dogs that they bring through, and the cats that they bring through. And then through this whole program, we have been able to turn an 80% euthanasia rate down to only 10%. Oh my goodness, that’s awesome.

Yes, it is one of our proud features and its leaves in bounds how our relationship has changed the animal control services. Their adoptions are going through the roof. It’s amazing. I think, every Monday they do like seven adoptions or something like that. So it’s like, great and they’re all behind it. And volunteers are coming there now and helping walk the dogs that are coming through their shelter, and taking them to mobile sites. So it’s just been this great impact that we’ve had with them in our government. I find it amazing that you partner with another organization that is literally the thing that just blows my mind. Because a lot of people in this industry, you know, “hey, we’re willing to work together with their organization.” And then there’s organizations that they like to be independent. You guys are ideally working towards the same goal. Right, absolutely. And I think in our community, in the KCK Metro, all the animal welfare agencies we really have a collaborative spirit with each other. It’s not just animal services and KCK. We had the SPCA, a lot of our programs with them. If we get a huge call for hoarding, we reach out to SPCA to come help us. ‘Cause room’s tight in most shelters. So they come on board with us.

People generally ask me like Who’s our competitors? And I like to say we don’t have a competitor. We all work together like a molecule. Each element does its own thing. That’s slightly different, but we have these bonds that bring us together. We all work together for the same effort. Absolutely. I love it that you said that it’s not a competition, and that is 100% correct because, you know, we’re all trying to do everything, and that is kind of one of the main reasons why we do this podcast is because we want other organizations to kind of pick up on things that you know a different organization may be doing, and maybe that will help them. Right. And know some programs, or just that overall attitude. At the end of the day. Like you said, we are literally working towards the same thing. We want to save lives. We want to help animals. And, you know, we also want to change how animals are viewed. Absolutely, absolutely. It’s changing, and it’s improving so much nowadays. You see animals on commercials now, and it’s truly amazing.

The culture here is really changing, especially with breeds. About 15 years ago, the Kansas City Metropolitan put a huge Pit bull ban. Oh yeah, that seems to be very, very common. And, you know, it’s a beautiful breed. They are beautiful, beautiful dogs and the sweetest things. Recently we have been able to end most of those bands in our counties, and the metropolitan area. We’re more opening up to allow the breed to come back in, which is beautiful. I always like to tell people just like people, there’s not always great people. There’s always some bad dogs, too. But a lot of it is how they were raised, your environment that you’re engaged to. They’re not dangerous at all. If anything, I’ve been bitten by more Cocker Spaniels. If you could get to know him, I mean, I would say to anyone, if they have this stigma towards them, I would really encourage them to spend some time with them because they are the most loving and they’re so expressive. Yes. I feel they’re one of the most expressive dogs, like facially and with their ears, if they’re not cropped. And they’re just adorable.

So in our area we do see a lot of Pit bulls that comes through the shelter, and some of them are great with other dogs, and they’re super sweet. And then we also get those really tough ones where these other ones that you’re talking about that get the bad rap and we accept those in. We still feel that those dogs need a home. They deserve a home to experience what it’s like to be loved. Now it may be harder to adopt them because they can’t be with kids. They can’t have other dogs. That’s just the situation for the dog. But there’s someone out there that’s perfect for them. And a lot of times I’ve seen these dogs that come through that have been in the fighting ring. Once they feel that connection of love, yeah, they’re all tough. But once you’re able to break through that and show them love and affection, they melt like butter.

So with bringing in a dog that you can tell has those behavioral issues does your organization do anything to, kind of, work with them? Like, do your volunteers give them any type of special attention? And, kind of, give them that extra love? How do you guys go about doing something like that? Yes, so we have a really big foster care program. And a lot of our foster cares they want to take those dogs that need a little bit extra. Those dogs that do get the bad rap I want to give an example. We had a dog, oh my gosh, his name just escaped me. It was like Nilo, and he came in and no one could touch him. Absolutely. No one could touch him. One of our foster cares took him in, and worked with him and got to the point where he could touch him, and pet him. And Nilo wouldn’t get into a car. She wouldn’t do anything. And he got her going to the car, going to the park. It was a process of like, two years, and our foster parent worked with this dog, and eventually it was like, well, they adopted her.

And then we have enrichment programs that we do at the shelter. You have your day today that you need to do. The dogs need to go outside. The cat’s cages need to be clean. In between all that, we do have enrichment programs for a dog where we work with and behaviorally, we have a team of volunteers that focus on that. And of those volunteers, we have weakened walks, we hold walk packs, it is headed up by one of our board members, and every weekend they take these dogs somewhere to walk on a trail for hours. It gets them out, and it’s the hard dogs that they’re focused on. You know, the dogs that are high energy, they’re like bouncing off the walls and really do need to get out and exercise. They’re specifically focused on those dogs, in particular. So it’s great. Yes, we have a lot of intention behind our pets. That’s awesome. I agree with you that there are dogs that need all that extra attention. So the fact that you guys actually hone in on that and take them for those weekend walks and it kind of just lets them be dogs and–. Right. And I also love, I want to kind of back up just a hair. I love that you guys also do fostering as well as your physical location.

So now I kind of want to talk a little bit about the challenges that you guys face as an organization. What would you say is your biggest challenge? Our biggest challenge is adoptions, because we do get those hard breeds. There are those hard dogs that we were talking about and we don’t give up on them. We have a dog right now that has been with us going over 1,400 days. So yeah, four and a half years and he came to us as a pup. So this is all he’s ever known, is a shelter. He actually came to us. He had a huge abscess on the side of his face that we had to surgically remove. So he has a little bit of a face deformity, and his name’s Merrick. He’s not perfect. He’s that high energy bouncing off the wall dog. He’s not aggressive, but he’s that rough playing dog like he just plays rough. He does not do well with other dogs, can’t be with other dogs because of his energy level and his rough play. We suggest not having children around, so he really needs that special person. And right now, what we have going on one of our partners, mission-driven, Scott Core. He owns a retail store that sells really cute doggy shirts, like “you had me at puppies and pumpkin spice.” So he sells these apparels and all that comes back to the animal welfares around in the community. And he also, he has a big social following, so he pushes for adoptions, and he’s taken Merrick under his wing, and he just put up Monday a huge billboard with Merrick’s face on it, saying he’s been here for 1400 days and he needs a home and we have so many supporters by it. The community has actually paid for the billboard that was put up. We’ve gotten some applications to foster care for Merrick, which would be new. We haven’t quite got any adoption applications yet, but it is great. So, yeah, that’s right now is our challenge. And Merrick is our longest dog here, but we have other dogs that have been, you know, have been 3 – 2 and we don’t give up on them. So it’s getting those dogs. And also just like anyone. You could go crazy in a shelter, you know, just like someone could go crazy in a prison. I mean, I hate to do that comparison, but he kind of is, they don’t get to go home. There’s once we’re done for the day, we close the shelter at eight or nine, and then they’re there, in their kennel. Getting them out and about is one of our hugest challenges.

Another challenge is unfortunately, this happens in the nonprofit world. You get bad management and the fundraising has fallen on the wayside and just all around, no real focus on building or growing our revenue. So, me stepping in has been really exciting because fundraising., it’s just like this beautiful, empty, blank canvas that we’re able to go back out and reach our former donors, as well as build new relationships to come into the shelter. You know, these fundraisers nine times out of 10 aren’t free to put on. No, gosh, no.

So, I’m thrilled when I talk to you guys. I always look for things that you guys tell me. So that way, when I check in with you guys, I’m truly intrigued at how things changed or what you guys were doing to better your guys’ organization. And so for you, I see how enthused you are about your organization. And I see that you see that blank canvas and I can tell that your mind is already going 100 miles. Right, I know, and going back to the events. Events are great galas. That’s pretty common in the nonprofit world, but it does cost money as well as a large amount of manpower, labor behind it.

So fund raising for nonprofits, it’s a lot of hitting the pavement. A lot of face to face conversations, getting to know the right people, or finding those right people. So yeah, it’s a lot of time, and especially for one person, I’m lucky enough to have a great team. I have a Marketing and Special Events Manager behind me. Her name’s Jess Pitt, and she’s amazing. And so we’re able to divide and conquer, and she’s out there bringing the dogs to–we call them third party events—like, this week, we did beer station. So it’s this restaurant slash beer joint and we’re able to bring awareness there. And the restaurant donates so much of the proceeds for the night and we do this all across. We usually have, like, four events throughout the month. We’re bringing dogs with us. I cannot do it alone, at all. So, it’s amazing to have a team and someone to focus on those smaller special events, as well as someone out there focusing on those major donors that you have to have to survive. Yes. I mean, it goes back to your point, too. About the bad management portion that usually brings, you know, some issues and everything like that.

So, to hear that you’re onboard, you’ve got that blank canvas and now you also have that great team behind you. That’s the foundation of an organization, is you all kind of have to work together and understand the needs of the organization. And you know what? You guys can do to make it better, and it seems like you guys are on the right track for that. Yeah, I would say, Kate, our CEO of the shelter. She has built a strong team, and she’s kind of gone around the shelter, again his goes back to the bad management over history and has focused on areas. She had to rebuild the vet clinic and get all the staff and get a good team together. They’re the same with the shelter, getting the right people in, and that are passionate about it. And once, it’s not just a paycheck to them. Like, we have people that we care, and it’s not about the paycheck. We want the dog or the cat to find love or to get better. And so she’s gone around. And now, finally with the Development Department, the Fund Raising Department, she has built a solid team of and enthusiastic and we do silly things. We usually, like I said, walk into our offices in sixty pound Labradors. So yeah, it is great. Jess and I have a wonderful time together and we get to be silly with social media and stuff. So it’s fun.

I know that you have big plans for your organization. Can you kind of share with me a little bit about what your thoughts are for the future? Well, I talked about having a mobile van to bring around a mobile veterinary clinic to the community. Yes. Reach out to those elderly or, unfortunately, some people just don’t have solid transportation. You can’t take a pet on a bus or in an Uber, or a taxi. So being able to come to them, is really a dream. I think our shelter was built in 2002 or maybe a little bit before that. So we’re coming up on needing a new building, and we’re kind of busting at the seams. So we’re hoping here soon to launch a capital campaign to build a new building and able to expand everything we do for our community. That’s awesome to hear and, you know, these are things that I love to hear because it’s amazing to me that you guys can grow. Ad just by grow, I don’t mean on updated building or, you know, anything like that. Like every little thing that causes a positive effect to your organization is what I consider growth. So I find it intriguing that you had said that you guys are busting at the seams. I truly hope that you guys are able to grow into a bigger building where you can continue this awesome atmosphere that you guys are, you know, it seems like you guys bring amazing attitude and enthusiasm. And I absolutely love that. Because if you’ve got the people there that are happy-and-go-lucky, then that’s a great place for those animals to be, that need you guys more than anything. Yeah, no, I mean, you nailed it on the head we’re busting at our seams. When I came in, our Director of Operations was actually in a room like the size of a very small bathroom, and there were like four other people in there with her. So we are on top of each other’s like we’re literally a family. We’re that close. So it’s great, and yeah the building’s old, so there’s a lot of repairs that come along with that. You’re obviously gonna run into obstacles along the way. I mean, that’s with anything pretty much. But I have no doubts in my mind that you guys can’t get there just from talking with you. And that really warms my heart a little bit. Thank you. Of course.

And one of the things that I do want to ask you is how can people get in touch with you guys whether it’s for fostering, volunteering to help out with some. ‘Cause I know that you’re gonna have some events coming up just because. Yep. How can they go about getting in touch with you guys? Well, they can always visit our website, which is www.HSGKC.com. And all of our information is on there. We have spelled out everything that we could on our website, so people can really know who we are and what we are about. We have a Volunteer Coordinator, her name’s Sarah Kelly, and her information is on the website as well, too. We have the biggest expense for well, a any corporation or business, is your labor, is your manpower. So we are working diligently and hard to supplement that with volunteers as well, too. So we have volunteers walking dogs. But we also have volunteers now that are helping in the vet clinic. Whether they have the veterinary skill or they don’t, they just think it’s interesting. So we’re really building a diverse playing field for our volunteers. Always, you can get in touch with me, Sheena. That’s Sheena@HSGKC.com. I’m always willing to talk to anyone and share our story, and our happenings.

You know, Sheena, I have really enjoyed this conversation. Me too, thank you. Yeah, no problem. Is there anything else that you want to share with us before we wrap things up today? With recently, with everything going on in the media, you may have heard that animal welfare is becoming more of an issue. And actually, the mistreatment of animal welfare is becoming a big topic right now to talk about because they don’t get the protection that we get as humans. And so I would say just to wrap it up, I mean, just like, if you see anything going, someone hurting a child or something like that. If someone’s hurting an animal, please reach out. Let us know, they don’t have a voice. Absolutely. And so we are their representatives. So if it’s suspicious, anything reach out to your local animal services, or your local shelters, and let them know that you think something is happening. It is saturated. There are so many people, only so many people who can help. But I assure you, by reaching out and letting people know that animal will get helped. Absolutely. I agree with that 100% because the ones that stand by and watch stuff go on are just as guilty as the ones that do it. We all have a voice, and we can all be that voice for that animal in need. We never know what this animal has experienced in the past, so it’s important for us to do everything we can to ensure that their future is brighter than their past. That really hits home for me, and I’m sure it hits home for some of our listeners because there is so much bad in the world and it only takes a few of us to change that. Absolutely.

So Sheena, Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. I really enjoyed learning about your organization, and I can tell that you guys are going places and I’m excited to check in  and see where exactly you guys have gone. Thank you again and please reach out and send us some update. Yeah, absolutely. Oh, especially if once Merrick finds a home, we will reach out and let you know. Absolutely. I can’t wait for that day. Yes, neither can we. I mean, I hope that’s a long time to be there. So I sure hope that he finds that loving home and he lives great in it. ‘Cause I know that you had said that you guys have had him since he was a puppy, so–. Great, right. I hope he gets that happy ending, you know? Every animal deserves it. Every animal. So no one should be excluded from love and a warm home and cuddles. Well, I’m looking forward to hearing an update on him and just your guys’ organization, in general. All right. Okay. Wonderful! Thank you.

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