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Group seeks more space as animal rescue numbers rise

Lynda Schoenfelder, left, and Laurie Martin look at Teddi, one of the animals available for adoption at Mitchell Animal Rescue. Martin said the organization is in need of more space after being founded one year ago. (Austin Kaus/Republic Photo)

After its formation a year ago, Mitchell Animal Rescue is bulging at the seams with abandoned pets.

Now, members of the group say they need more space.

"We are having so many surrenders and people are not claiming their pets from shelters," said co-founder Laurie Martin. "We are running out of foster (families) and some have four dogs."

The group was formed in fall 2008 to prevent euthanization of the city's adoptable dogs and cats.

Martin said the number of dogs has tripled to nine and cats have almost doubled to three in the last six months. She cites the economy as a factor, and said it's possible that owners don't have the money to collect their animals after being captured by animal control officers, or even the money to feed them.

She noted that it costs $30 per animal for three days of boarding -- the time by which an owner must claim a pet. A dog or cat is adopted within five days of capture. If Osterhaus Homeless Animal Shelter behind Lakeview Veterinary Clinic becomes full, then animals are pulled out after five days to become euthanized, Martin said.

John Parker, city animal control officer, said animals that are being picked up by the city could have been dumped for the reasons Martin cited.

"But we have no way of knowing whether they were turned loose or allowed to run free," he said.

So far in December, Parker has dealt with about 30 animals, some of which have been claimed by their owners. Animal control deals with an average of 60 to 80 pets or wild animals a month.

Ideally, MAR would like to use or rent a 2,500- to 3,000-square-foot existing building, Martin said.

"We are looking for short term right now because we are overflowing," she said.

Space is needed for cat and dog quarantine rooms, handling rooms and two separate adoption rooms, she said. Dogs will be kept in kennels where they will have extra room to move around freely, while cats can stay in stacked cages, Martin said.

"We eventually would like to have our own new building, but that will take time and money -- around $200,000 to $250,000," she said.

Until the economy improves, Martin expects more area residents surrendering their pets.

This holiday season, MAR has set up a pet gift tree with paw-shaped ornaments at Safe Haven Small Animal Hospital, 201 E. Norway Ave. Area residents can choose an ornament with a pet need and leave a donation there until Christmas, Martin said.

The pet rescue group recently kicked off a food bank for area pet owners. Six to eight pallets containing canned dog food were donated to the organization, Martin said.

Pet food has been placed at the senior center and Salvation Army for anyone who needs it. Those who adopt pets from MAR also receive food.

"We are working on handing these out and hoping some people keep their animals," Martin said.

She noted that donations of dry Purina cat, dog, puppy and kitten food are being accepted.