Columbia Organizations Hope to Reduce Animal Shelter Euthanasia

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COLUMBIA - No Kill Columbia held a public meeting Wednesday night to discuss the organization's goals and what impact "no kill" animal shelters can have on a community. The group advocates against euthanasia in animal shelters due to overcrowding.

Officials of the Central Missouri Humane Society in Columbia hope to keep as many animals alive as possible, but sometimes have to make decisions against this.

"It's not so easy when you've had 50 intakes in a day and no cages. You have to make a decision because of cage space," CMHS Assistant Manager Kimberly Newberry said. Newberry feels anyone who works at an animal shelter would not want to put an animal down due to space constraints. CMHS has also not been forced to euthanize any dogs or cats due to overcrowding since Nov. 2011.

CMHS named new director Kimberly Sherlaw Monday. Sherlaw comes to Columbia after working with a "no kill" animal shelter in Norfolk, VA. CMHS hopes Sherlaw will come up with solutions to overcrowding at the shelter.

"I'm hoping that with the experience she has [she will come] into the shelter with a new light, new ideas, new things that we can try that can move us forward," Newberry said.

CMHS board member Brandon Steenbergen also feels new leadership could help eliminate euthanasia due to space issues in the future. Current conditions at CMHS can make that difficult as a result of the shelter's "open door policy" of accepting all animals.

Columbia Second Chance is a "no kill" facility, but that shelter does not employ the same open door policy. It can refuse taking in animals.

"We don't want those animals to be abandoned in the community where they could be susceptible to starvation, freezing or be struck by cars," Steenbergen said. "[Euthanasia] is always a last resort, but we hope it becomes a resort that we never have to reach."

The president of No Kill Columbia said the organization is looking forward to meeting Sherlaw. "Considering her past experience at a 'no kill' facility, we look forward to learning more about her animal welfare philosophy," Liz Burks said. "We hope that we can partner with Ms. Sherlaw to form a 'no kill' Columbia."

Group leaders also have suggestions to how CMHS could become a 'no kill' facility. These include opening on Sundays and extending hours during the week to accommodate people with full-time jobs.

No Kill Columbia hopes to operate on 11 steps to successfully operate a "no kill" animal shelter. The final step is having "a compassionate director." CMHS officials expect Sherlaw will fill that role. Sherlaw is set to start work in mid-March.

The organization is also taking part in an ASPCA Meet Your Match Adopt-A-Thon on April 1 at the old Mid-City Lumber Co. building on Paris Road in Columbia. To volunteer, you can send an email to No Kill Columbia hopes to find homes for at least 120 animals at the event.