Strays overwhelm Crestwood’s animal shelter

Residents invited to adopt stray cats at Whitecliff Park shelter

By VINCENT BRENNAN

An increase in stray animals — primarily cats — has forced the Crestwood Animal Control Division and the city’s Adopt-a-Pet program to consider other methods of getting the word out to area residents.

“I’m just about to make some signs to put up,” said Suzie Sutton, the city’s animal control officer. “We’re going to put them up around Whitecliff (Park) and just about anywhere else they let me.”

The Crestwood shelter has room for three cats and three dogs, but the spike in strays has stretched the shelter to 18 cats.

“It has been pure bedlam,” said Sutton, who has served as the city’s animal control officer since 1998. She came to Crestwood after having a 25-year career as the founder and director of the Missouri Wildlife Rescue Center. In coming here 10 years ago, she brought with her long years of hands-on wildlife rescue and rehabilitation experience, facility-management expertise and an aptitude for motivating volunteers.

Crestwood’s animal shelter at Whitecliff Park is 25 years old and is about the size of “a normal household bathroom,” according to Sutton, who said the shelter’s location is a deterrent to residents who wish to adopt these animals.

“We’re pretty tucked back in the park,” she said. “We’re overlooked a lot.”

Stray animals that come into the shelter are held until they are claimed by their owner.

If not claimed after 10 days, they are vaccinated, checked and treated for parasites and viruses and spayed or neutered, if necessary, and become available for adoption.

Sutton stressed that the need for people to adopt these animals is great, but many residents are not in the market for a new pet, especially during this time of the year.

Compared to other animal shelters and programs in the area, Crestwood offers many amenities to individuals willing to adopt thanks to the Friends of Animals.

Founded by resident Margie Theiss in 1979 to assist Crestwood Animal Control, Friends of Animals provides funds for the veterinary care of impounded animals and injured wildlife. Recently, its scope has been broadened to include the costs of vaccinations and the neutering procedures required to make non-claimed stray animals adoption-ready. To keep the fund operational, owners and adopters are asked to reimburse the group for these expenses.

“The Friends of the Animals program pays for any of these fees,” Sutton said. “We have a fortune invested in these kittens, but they’re not going anywhere.”

While no one is adopting in the area, the animals are beginning to outgrow the shelter.

“We are a little tiny municipal facility,” Sutton said. “We’re even turning people down (who want to give up their animal.)”

Most of the animals range from several weeks old to 1 year old, but are growing quickly. Sutton said the shelter has a number of black cats available for adoption.

Sutton and the rest of the volunteers at the animal shelter hope that by getting the word out, residents will respond. But in the meantime, the Adopt-a-Pet program will continue to operate at capacity, seeking suitable families to welcome these animals home.

Without the help of residents coming forward and adopting these animals, the shelter “will continue to struggle,” Sutton said.

For more information, call Sutton at (314) 729-4868.