Shelter Battles State\'s Bad Rep Created by Puppy Mills

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COLUMBIA - Missouri is among the nation's worst states for "problem" puppy mills, according to a report from the Humane Society of the United States.  The Central Missouri Humane Society (CMHS) said it is try to create a more positive image for Missouri.

A report titled "A Horrible Hundred" cited 100 puppy mills nationwide which have raised red flags at the Humane Society. Missouri is home to 24 of them.

Barbara Levy, author of "Be Your Pet's Best Friend", said Missouri has a bad reputation. 

"I was a secretary of a health foundation for animals, and I actually had people say to me, 'I won't come to Missouri to show my dog,'" Levy said. "It not only has an economic impact because we would attract wonderful people, it also has a negative impact on the state that we are not caring and I don't think that is true."

The CMHS is trying to counter the negative perceptions.

"It all started with the hiring of our new executive director Mary Pat Boatfield," Shelter Relations Coordinator Colin LaVaute said.

Boatville, who came to Columbia from Nashville, Tenn. has a "sterling reputation" among people who run shelters, LaVaute said.

"She has been making extra efforts to train our staff, but more than anything she is allowing the staff to do their job and do it well," Lavaute said. "The staff working here at the Central Missouri Humane Society has never been more trained and certified than they are at this point and time, and I think that they are doing some amazing things."

Boatfield said she works with shelters that want leadership changes and direction changes.

"I believe that many of our staff managers are much more competent at leading their directory boards," Boatfield said. "I feel that our managers and our staff all communicate much better with each other. They work back and forth very, very well to share information and to develop common goals and to help each other. They are working together much better as a team."

LaVaute said another thing that can attribute to a positive image is the society's rescue numbers. "Last year alone our rescue coordinator sent nearly 800 animals to rescues all over the United States, and she is on par to break those records this year as well."

When a dog has been at the shelter for a while, LaVaute said, CMHS makes an extra efforts to give it more exposure to the community.

"Dog of the week" is a weekly feature the shelter does on social media sits to showcase a certain pet that needs a little bit of extra help getting out of the shelter, he said.

CMHS is one of the shelters in the Boone County area with an open door policy. LaVaute said the society's partners in the community play a vital role in terms of re-homing animals. For example, Second Chance Rescue is a no kill shelter and several animals from Central Missouri Humane Society end up going to Second Chance.

"Shelters or rescues that only have so much space have closed door policy," LaVaute said. "Whenever you take an animal to those organizations and they fill up they can't take the animals, and that is why the Central Missouri Humane Society is here for residents of Boone County to be able to relinquish their animals."

While CMHS is seeing a lot of relinquished dogs, LaVaute said it is important to note that the shelter's euthanasia rate has been dropping dramatically over the last few years.

"Last year our rate of euthanasia was at 29 percent, and we are on par to go even further down than that this year as well."

For all of the up-to-date shelter statistics you can visit the Central Missouri Humane Society's statistics page.

Both LaVaute and Boatfield said the ultimate goal is to build a new, larger facility to house more relinquished animals.

(Editor's Note: This story is part of the KOMU 8 News series "Rescued Dogs: Beyond the Cage." Stories included a gallery of photos of adopted dogs from the families who love them.)