OTTUMWA — Overcrowding is a word that looms over the roofs of all animal rescue shelters.
For the Heartland Humane Society, overcrowding isn't just a worry. It is a reality, especially in the summer months.
"What we find is when dogs come in, they have not been vaccinated, and that is where we have the problems because they have to go into isolation for about two weeks until they are vaccinated, and we only have so much space we can use," explained Stan McHawkes, who serves as shelter directer at Heartland.
The Ottumwa shelter has had its fair share of experience with a sudden influx of animals. The most recent example is the 17 Havanese, who were originally thought to be Maltese, dogs that were taken from an area home last week due to unsafe living conditions. After a few days, 13 of those dogs were sent to another rescue in Des Moines, and four were put in the care of area foster parents. However, it still puts an initial strain on the shelter, which now must fund trips to the vet, meals and find space in the facility.
Heartland advocates for responsibility when bringing a pet into your home. "When someone comes in, we talk to them and explain to them you have got all the vet bills and the food. You've got to clean up behind them, and it's like having a child," said McHawes.
One of the most common reasons dog parents relinquish their rights to Heartland is because of a lifestyle choice. McHawes explains the biggest problem is families who are moving because "there seems to be shortage of pet-friendly rentals all over the place."
Heartland hits maximum capacity at 120 animals. If you are feeling overwhelmed with your pet while the shelter is full, there are still options. Placing ads in your local newspaper or on Craigslist is an easy way to ensure that your pet is given to a good home without straining shelter resources.