Summer is a hard time for animal shelters, which see an increase in arrivals, flea and tick outbreaks, and a drop in adoptions. For Almost Home Humane Society of North Central Iowa, it's no different.
"Our adoptions tend to slow up a lot in the summer," Chris Ball, animal care manager, said. "People are really busy. May and June tend to be fairly slow months for us. May, I think, because of graduations, and then you have summer vacations and other stuff going on."
The shelter continues to receive more animals, though now they are being turned away.
-Messenger photo by Brandon L. Summers
Katt Flockhart, left, speaks with Chris Ball, Almost Home animal care manager, while taking Thunder in for a checkup. The year-and-a-half old feline is recovering from abuse.
"We're full. We're at maximum," Ball said. "We turn away animals all the time because we don't have enough kennels, but right now we're just flat-out full. We're trying to help people find other shelters to send their animals to, and they're having the same problems."
Right now, Almost Home has 72 dogs and about 75 to 80 cats, Ball said, each costing $15 per day to be sheltered.
"They come to us as lost or stray. The pounds have been very busy lately, so we've been getting a significant number of animals from local pounds," she said.
Another reason Almost Home is at capacity is because the nonprofit is a no-kill shelter, Ball said.
"Some of the facilities that are not no-kill don't have that problem, because they do euthanize after a while. But when it's a no-kill facility, the animals stay with us until we find a home for them," she said.
Another cause is the economy, Ball said.
"We've had a lot of animals surrendered to us because the families lost their job or they just can't afford to get them the veterinary care they need," she said.
For the shelter, ticks and fleas are a serious problem in the summer, Ball said.
"Ticks have been really, really bad this year," she said. "Even the animals that have been here, we're finding ticks on them. Ticks have been very abundant this spring and this summer, so far."
The shelter follows a protocol with each animal that comes in, Ball said.
"They get bathed. They get examined. They get tested for heartworms," she said. "Our dogs get flea, tick and heartworm preventative. Our cats, we try to give them flea preventative as often as we can, but it's very expensive. If we have it donated, we use it, of course. Otherwise, we try to purchase what we can."
The shelter is helped, though, by volunteers. Specifically, during the summer, its young volunteers, all under age 14.
"The kid volunteers are great. Some of them are here at 8:30 in the morning, when we get here, and they're here all day. They're scrubbing kennels, sweeping floors, washing walls, playing with dogs and cats," Ball said. "We don't have a lot of adult volunteers. We could always use more. There's so many different aspects of the shelter we could use help with."
The shelter's staff is especially driven by their care for its animal residents.
"Every single person here, whether it's a volunteer or staff person, our first priority and the reason we're here is because we love the animals so much," Ball said. "It's worth it when we see somebody that we've had here for a while finally find the right home. We do love every single one of them like they were our own."
There are several ways people can help the shelter. One is to spay and neuter pets as soon as possible, as soon as you get them, Ball said.
"Don't ever buy or adopt an animal on a spur-of-the-moment decision, because cute little puppies turn into full-grown dogs," she said. "Understand, you're looking at 10 to 20 years, a lifespan of an animal. If that's not something you're able to commit to, you really need to think about it."