More pets than ever are homeless and neglected, and local shelters are picking up the pieces. We talked with several organizations and were surprised to hear about all of the innovative ways they’re reaching out.

Humane Society of Missouri

It was the culmination of more than a year of work when the first phase of the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act went into effect in January, says Humane Society of Missouri president Kathy Warnick. “There definitely will be a significant improvement in the conditions breeding animals will experience in the state of Missouri. The Department of Agriculture, along with the Missouri attorney general, are being extremely proactive in shutting down substandard breeding facilities, and making sure the remaining facilities adhere to the improved standards of care.”

Along with that achievement, the organization also is celebrating the opening of a new grooming center at its Macklind Avenue headquarters. “We are very pleased to be offering this grooming opportunity in conjunction with Kennelwood, because it keeps pets healthier and happier to be cleaned and well-maintained,” Warnick says. Other outreach programs include the Humane IQ educational course for at-risk students, disaster response and an animal cruelty task force that reached more than 25,000 animals last year, she adds. The organization also worked with the Animal Protective Association and St. Louis County Animal Control to plan the county’s new animal shelter, which opened last November.

Another highlight of the Humane Society’s programs is Longmeadow Rescue Ranch in Union, Mo., one of the largest horse and farm animal rehabilitation and rescue centers in the U.S. “The Barn Buddy program there allows people to sponsor a horse or farm animal of their choice and they receive a packet, a plush animal, a photo of the animal and biography, and certificate of care.” Warnick adds the ranch has open houses on Fridays and Saturdays, and ‘Barn Buddy Cams’ available on the ranch’s website allow sponsors to see their sponsored animal. “It’s fun and it is a very special place.”

Animal Protective Association of Missouri (APA)

To fight the excess of homeless cats showing up at the shelter, the APA started the Pick Your Price campaign, which allows potential cat adopters to pay whatever price they see fit for their new pet, says executive director Steve Kaufman. “We go over all that we put into the animal’s care—spay or neuter, disease testing and care—which comes out to about $250 per animal,” he says. So far, the program has been a success, with more adoptions—especially adoptions in pairs and senior adoptions, Kaufman adds. “The morale has been great for the staff and volunteers, because we’re seeing so many more cats moving out of the building.”

A recently added climbing structure allows small groups of cats to run free, which is good for their health and adopt ability, Kaufman says. “They can show off their personalities better than they do sitting behind glass with a food and water bowl, and it’s great because a cat’s going to run up and greet you every time,” he says. “The first day we let out two cats as a trial run, and both were adopted that day!”

Having made lots of improvements to the animals’ spaces, the organization is now planning to upgrade the look of its lobby and visibility from the street. “We’re getting swallowed up on Hanley,” Kaufman says. “This is our 90th year of putting people and pets together, so we would like to get construction underway to emphasize that we’re here for the long run.” The APA will be celebrating this prodigious milestone all year—especially through annual events like its trivia night and 5K run, called the Fast and the Furriest. But mostly Kaufman wants to keep drawing attention to the great adoptable pets: “There’s no need to go buy a pet at a pet store, you can get almost any breed or size of pet you like, and we like to see lots of animals ending up in homes.”

Stray Rescue of St. Louis

During the whirlwind of opening Stray Rescue’s Pine Street shelter and taking possession of the dogs from the city’s closing Gasconade Street shelter, there was no time for frills. “We had a specific plan of a dream shelter of sorts, and now we’re trying to circle around and do some of those things we wanted to do a year and a half ago,” says Stray Rescue’s Jason Schipkowski. He says construction on the facility is about halfway done, with plenty of work still to go—especially in the reception area. “Right now if you walk in, there’s no separation between the dogs and the lobby,” he says. “We’ll have a barrier between those two areas, which means less stress on the dogs.”

The nonprofit has been working closely with the city to help prosecute in cases of neglect and abuse. “We respond to Citizens’ Service Bureau reports, and if someone is breaking an animal welfare law they can be charged,” Schipkowski says. In addition, the organization is working with the city on the curriculum for a court-ordered course that could be required of certain individuals charged with animal abuse or neglect. “Community outreach is fixing the leaky pipe rather than cleaning up the leak; it’s about getting to the heart of the situation and being on the streets daily.”

The shelter also is adding to its enrichment programs for the shelter dogs, Schipkowski notes. The new Running Buddies program, which is in its early days, allows people to come in and team up with pre-approved shelter dogs that they can take for a run. So far, the reaction has been positive, Schipkowski says, and the dogs enjoy both exercise and increased socialization.

Schipkowski points out that the organization’s biggest cost driver is medical bills, and all of these shelters welcome donations of money, time or supplies. “We could never do it without all the support we receive from the community.”

More Pets articles.