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St. Louis pet rescue groups 'drowning' in abandoned cats, dogs

"This is probably one of the toughest times in anybody's memory to be a rescuer.”

ST. LOUIS — It’s work Constance Kruse loves—but it brings her to tears, she says, almost daily.

“They just don't understand what happened,” she says of the dogs and cats she finds dumped or abandoned around Missouri. “And they're alone and they're hungry and they're cold and they're scared and they just don't understand. That kills me.”

But it’s also, in many ways, what she lives for: rescuing them.

“I'm honored, honored to work with such amazing people and to and to be able to be a part of this and live a life of service,” she said. Kruse is the board president of Saving St. Louis Pets, a local organization that unites different shelters and rescue groups to work together to pick up and find places for pets without families.  “But it is tough and this is probably one of the toughest times in anybody's memory to be a rescuer.”

That’s because of what she and other rescuers are calling a “flood” of cats and dogs without homes.

Credit: Saving St. Louis Pets

“We are drowning in these guys right now and they're dying and they're suffering because we have nowhere to put them,” said Kruse, holding a kitten from a feral litter in her lap.

An injured dog roaming, a litter of kittens someone's threatening to shoot: the calls for help via email or on their Facebook page are often overwhelming, always urgent.

“We went from having 12 dogs a week that needed rescue to twelve to fifteen dogs a day that are needing rescue,” said Melissa Bauer, a board member with Saving St. Louis Pets.

Credit: Saving St. Louis Pets

“My inbox is usually full of about 100 animals that need somewhere to go right now,” added Kruse.

“Once we step in, we're helping the cats or dogs or birds or whatever it is, go from being left alone to getting them to someplace that they can have a better life,” said Fred Hodgman, another board member with Saving St. Louis Pets.

They are finding more and more that many owners simply cannot give their pets better lives. People moving with the end of the eviction moratorium, becoming burdened by vet care, getting overwhelmed by their pandemic playmate; the rescuers believe it's all to blame for the spike in animals needing help.

“As we all have learned this year, if we didn't know before, life can kick your butt out of nowhere, anybody's,” said Kruse, “and that’s what we're here for.”

“If the shelter doesn't have room for them, then they just let them go and think, you know, somebody else's problem is somebody else will pick up this poor baby,” said Bauer. She’s one of those someones, wearing out her personal van driving across Missouri picking up and delivering animals.

Credit: Saving St. Louis Pets

“We'll grab dogs we don't even have rescue for yet. It's because we can't leave them out in the streets,” said Bauer. She added that many of the animals found are unfixed, meaning they could go on to create litters of more homeless pets. Many of them are also sick, especially during this year’s parvo outbreak among dogs.

Kruse says donating money and supplies is always helpful, but their biggest ask right now is for homes.

“Shelters are full. Rescues are full. Our fosters are full. We need fosters. We are begging, begging,” she said. “This can be strictly on your terms. It will cost you nothing. All you have to do is hang out with a buddy.”

The organization also aims to support owned pets and help them stay in good home situations. They say education is their most important tool, working with pet owners to come up with emergency plans in case of a life curve-ball or to connect them with accessible veterinary and spay/neuter services. Kruse says the best case scenario is always to keep a pet in a loving, caring home—even during tough times.

“You don't know how impossible somebody's life is. You just don't. And we are here for one reason only, and my capacity as a rescuer, I am here to help the animals,” said Kruse.

To learn more about Save St. Louis Pets and support their mission, visit their website or join their Facebook Group.

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