Lifeline Animal Placement and Protection is a no-kill rescue shelter operating in Wichita, Kansas. They have been in operation for about 15 years and have a capacity of around 400 animals.
Patricia Morriss, Lifeline's founder, works three jobs in order to pay for food and veterinary care, and a small army of around 50 volunteers help her maintain and operate Lifeline. Pets Uncaged had the opportunity to speak with Morriss at a fundraiser for the shelter this past weekend.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to do this.
I had some animals of my own, and people called me and asked if I could take some more. I thought that I would either become the "crazy cat woman" and have them all in my house or would have to start a kennel. It just snowballed. You can’t just have a few. There are so many kill shelters but no no-kill shelters. I just started it and it’s gotten very big.
How did you become known to people initially?
Word of mouth, at first. Then veterinarians, then pet stores, and now we’re pretty well-known. We'll get calls from the Humane Society or a lot of the little shelters in Kansas that don’t have any room. I get maybe 100 calls a day. (At this point during our interview, Morriss' phone rings, as if on cue.) That's probably someone trying to give me a dog or cat.
You're the only no-kill shelter in the area?
There are no-kill rescues, but we’re the only no-kill shelter with a physical presence. In an ideal world they all would be no-kill, but unfortunately if you’re a city shelter and you have to take animals, you can't be no-kill.
Dog or cat, and do you have a favorite breed?
Oh, that's really hard. I am a cat person, a crazy cat person. Then when I started, I had several mutts and someone brought in a Rottweiler. At first I thought it was a killer breed and that we couldn't keep it, but I fell in love with it. I kept it eight years, then when it died I got another, and then another after the second one died. And now I think they are my favorite breed, but now I've got Chihuahuas. So it's hard. I like them all.
Pat Morriss and Candice Smith
What's the most challenging thing in all of this?
It's definitely the money part. We're doing this fundraiser today, and we are all volunteer. Nobody is salaried; I work many jobs and pay all of the expenses. Then there's medical care, insurance, food. All of our pets are spayed and neutered, heart-worm tested, and the cats have feline leukemia tests, and geriatric care for the older animals.
How do you handle pets that have physical or emotional issues due to abuse or being homeless?
There are always some that will be hard to handle. They're the ones who stay the longest. But we give them a lot of attention and vet care. Right now we have one with two broken legs, but she's fine and in a foster home. The injured ones are easier to adopt. People feel more empathy for them.
What's the most common reason a pet is turned into Lifeline?
I have to say that the most common reason is that people "move on." They don't want their pet anymore. I get calls from owners who don't have time for a pet after owning one for eight or 10 years. That's the one that's most unacceptable to me. It's like bringing in your mother. It's understandable that strays are found this time of year, but getting rid of them because your lifestyle changes is the most common reason and the most horrendous.
Is there anything you'd like to see addressed legislatively on the local, state or federal level related to animal welfare?
Very much so. In Kansas, it's awful that there’s no mandatory spay/neuter law. I think that’s the key to cutting down on the shelter killings. In Colorado, they have mandatory spay/neuter and we send animals to Colorado because they’re usually looking for adoptable pets. But here we have puppy mills that are revenue for the state. It’s very sad. I know there are people working on it, but right now there’s really no way to support it. It’s not to that point yet.
What advice would you give pet owners, especially first-timers?
Give the pets some time. If you take a pet home and it's not perfect in a day or two, don’t take it back. If the pet has an accident, don't take it back. And for dogs, get a good trainer!
If you live in the Wichita area and you're looking to adopt a pet in need, visit Lifeline Animal Placement and Protection today and help support those who work tirelessly on behalf of unwanted animals.
Gordon Murray is a make-believe grown-up from Wichita, Kansas, who is often confounded by the behavior of his two dogs and cat, and feels compelled to share his experiences with complete strangers. He's pretty sure that the cat would kill him if the money was good enough.