Charles Vreeland, President of the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City said, “It’s a grand experiment and an idea we’ve had for several years, but until Captain Rodney Smith came on board as the new police captain we couldn’t get it off the ground.”
Vreeland is talking about an incredible program called Ray of Hope that has taken the euthanasia rate of unwanted cats and dogs in Kansas City shelters from 54% to 4% during the first six months of 2009. It’s a program that links together the services of the Kansas City police, the Humane Society, volunteers, local no-kill shelters and rescue groups both in the city and across the country.
Ray of Hope is all about cooperation, coordination and communication between these agencies and it could be replicated in just about every city across the country. It’s actually a pretty simple concept of government entities and non-profit groups working together as a team to save the lives of innocent cats and dogs.
This is how the program works. HSGKC acts as the coordinating agency that pulls together all of the resources in the community. Every Monday afternoon Captain Smith, Humane Society shelter director Karen Sands and veterinarian Michelle Taylor, DVM walk the isles of the city “pound” taking notes on every animal.
Their findings determine which pets will remain with the city shelter for adoption and which cats and dogs will be moved to HSGKC’s facility for adoption.
Then Sands returns to her office for the most important part of the project, finding placement for the rest of the pets. Breed specific rescue groups are notified about purebreds, and local rescue groups are called to see how many cats and dogs they can take.
The pressure is always mounting because every day more stray pets are being picked up by animal control and placed into the city shelter.
Once Sands has depleted her resources in the Kansas City area she reaches out farther to neighboring towns and even across the country to a sanctuary in Colorado where they have developed a partnership.
To date, Ray of Hope has saved 800 animals. The agencies were able to place all but a few of the very sick or very aggressive pets.
“These are highly adoptable animals. They just need a chance. They need more than three or four days,” Robin Rowland of HSGKC said in an interview with the News Tribune.
The Humane Society has taken on the important task of covering the cost of vaccinating and spay/neutering the cats and dogs that are removed from the city shelter. Then the local rescue groups reimburse a portion of that cost for those procedures back to them.
Ray of Hope has even taken into consideration the issue of feral cats that cannot be adopted into private homes. They have coordinated with local farmers who are willing to let the cats roam in their barns. Ray of Hope makes sure the cats are provided with food.
Even though Ray of Hope is a demanding program, the agencies involved don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. “It’s so satisfying when you see these dogs and cats get a home. That’s why I keep doing it. I’m so driven by that,” Sands said.
“We have to make this happen. The alternative is, it’s literally life and death.”