With more owners in need and more pets surrendered, KC animal groups feel the strain

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Experts say pets are the latest victims of the pandemic. More are being given up, and some owners don’t have the money for important procedures.

KC Pet Project said in August, they saw a 151% increase in the number of owner-surrendered pets coming in, and a 20% increase in the number of stray animals being brought in by residents.

For Dallas McElmurry and countless others, this pandemic has been a financial strain. Her husband was out of work, and most recently, her beloved dog, Shug, got sick.

“She is usually a playful, spunky dog, and she’s been going through it,” McElmurry said.

On Monday, McElmurry drove an hour to the Pet Resource Center of Kansas City, saying no other place had space and could work with her financial situation.

“It’s been a bad situation all around for everybody, obviously, but the pets are suffering, too,” McElmurry said.

FOX4 was there as doctors gave McElmurry the tough news: Shug has parvo, a highly contagious virus that can be deadly without treatment.

Pet Resource Center CEO Michelle Rivera said she’s seeing more pets come in needing critical surgery, vaccinations and more.

These are all procedures desperately needed since, in these times, this is often the only place owners can afford to take their furry friends.

Due to the pandemic, her team is providing walk-up car service, and the parking lot was packed Monday.

On Tuesday, the organization had to temporarily stop special medical services. In an email, Rivera said they just couldn’t keep up — bad news for those who already can’t afford pet expenses.

“We did have to make the hard decision to suspend special medical today- we can’t keep up and have temporarily suspended until we can get help.  I feel horrible for all those pets,” she wrote.

The nonprofit relies on donations and can offer veterinary care and pet food pantry items at reduced rates. But because it was closed for two months due to COVID-19, they have a 20,000 pet waiting list. 

“These sick pets are going to be relinquished to area shelters if they’re not helped. They’re going to die and suffer,” Rivera said.  “And we don’t want that to happen, but there’s nowhere else for them to go right now.”

Doctors were able to give Shug fluids and medicine and show her owner how to do it at home. It will save close to $2,000 in would-be bills. They said this care has about an 80% survivability rate.

McElmurry said she would never surrender her pup.

“I would go through whatever hoop I needed to figure it out because this is not just a dog, it’s a family member,” McElmurry said.

KC Pet Project said it took in 1,087 dogs and cats in August – the highest intake for the month of August in the organization’s 8-year history. However, they said they are also seeing robust adoption traffic – processing more adoptions in August than they did last year (780 for the month).

Pet Resource Center is hiring full-time veterinarians and asking for volunteers and donations. To volunteer, visit the center’s website to learn more.

Right now, donations are being matched up to $100,000 through Dec. 31. You can donate online here. You can also bring in items like bleach, paper towels and pet food.

Veterinarians interested in a full-time position or providing fill-in assistance should email the PRCKC chief veterinarian at jnichols@prckc.org.

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