The bond between people and their pets may have become yet another victim of the recession, the manager of the Lawrence Humane Society shelter says.
In January and February this year, the shelter, 1805 E. 19th, has taken in about 30 percent more dogs than it did during the first two months of 1991, said Roma Tesch, who manages the shelter.
Tesch said she saw a link between the recession and the influx of animals.
"That's a good possibility, because people are having trouble feeding their kids, let alone a pet," Tesch said.
In January 1991, the shelter took in 167 dogs. That number increased this year to 192. In February 1991, the shelter housed 142 dogs, compared to 208 last month.
Tesch said pets can be a pricey expenditure for some people when the economy is slumping. Besides feeding and maintaining dogs, she said, there are extra costs for rabies shots and spaying or neutering.
The costs vary with veterinarians, but Tesch estimates spaying or neutering a pet ranges from $45 to $120.
The rabies scare may play a role in the number of abandoned dogs which are brought into the shelter, Tesch said. As of March 3, state officials reported that 78 animals had been diagnosed with rabies in Kansas.
Before the outbreak people who found stray dogs would keep them around, she said.
"I think there have been more people bringing the strays in. Usually they'll let them hang around, but the fear of rabies ... they're bringing them in," Tesch said, adding that no dogs brought into the shelter this year have had rabies.
In addition to dogs that were dumped off, Tesch said the shelter has received dogs that were surrendered by their owners.
"A lot of it has to do with finding housing to keep the pets," she said.
Many landlords either don't allow pets or tack on a service charge to house pets. Tesch said the extra charge can be a financial burden.
"The number one excuse is we're moving and we can't take it with us," Tesch said.
January figures show the following breakdown of animals the shelter took in: 24 strays from the county; 36 dogs owned by county residents; 24 dogs owned by city residents; 32 strays in the city; 64 dogs brought in by animal control, part of the Lawrence police department's community services division.
Although she didn't have the figures, Tesch said a number of these animals were reclaimed.
The current population burst at the shelter is unusual because spring, which is birthing season for dogs and cats, is typically when the shelter receives more animals.
Tesch pleads with animal owners not to dump their dogs, because she sees what happens to them.
The worst case Tesch has seen this year was two stray beagles which had mange: mites that eat into the skin. Mange is highly contagious even to humans, and the dogs finally had to be put to sleep.
Dumping a dog off is a cruel thing to do, she said.
"They'll either starve to death, get hit by a car or a farmer's dog will kill them," Tesch said, explaining that farm dogs are often very territorial.
"Dogs are domestic animals, they need care of humans," she said.
Many strays will go up for adoption and factors including friendliness and space availability determine whether the dog will be put to sleep, Tesch said.
Under state statute, cruelty to animals is defined as ``abandoning or leaving any animal in any place without making provisions for its proper care."
Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson said he couldn't remember the last time someone was arrested on charges of cruelty to animals. The crime is listed as a class B misdemeanor and the penalty is a six-month jail term and a $1,000 fine.
A city ordinance has provisions similar to state law and the penalty for cruelty to animals is a $100 fine.