Crucial Council Vote to Determine Future of Independence Animal Shelter

For just a little while yesterday, I almost felt like I lived in a progressive city when it comes to animal sheltering. That’s because I spent the afternoon touring Great Plains SPCA‘s great new facility in Merriam, Kansas during their grand opening.

Chillin' Feline Style at Great Plains SPCA

Chillin’ Feline Style at Great Plains SPCA

Great Plains’ new shelter is the antithesis of sad and depressing animal housing. There are cheerful yellow dog runs with beds above the floor and Plexiglas kennel doors to prevent spread of disease. Natural light pours through a wall-size window in the “sun room” as kitties lounge on assorted cat trees. Everything is colorful, new and clean. Smiling volunteers are everywhere, eager to help throngs of people petting puppies and tossing toys to tail-wagging dogs. Cats intently gaze at television screens of chirping birds. This is how animal sheltering should be done.

Unfortunately, the idea of a comfortable — even comforting – place for homeless animals to bide their time until adoption hasn’t yet made its way into most city-run shelters in the Kansas City area. In fact, the attitude of city officials around here has long been to provide bare-minimum space to house homeless cats and dogs until those animals are euthanized, adopted or claimed by owners.

Last year, the Kansas City Missouri City Council rejected Great Plains’ (then known as Heartland SPCA) bid to operate its city shelter and instead chose Kansas City Pet Project, mainly due to that organization’s much lower bid. Kansas City, Missouri’s animal shelter has long been an embarrassment, with cramped, rusty cages and an ancient HVAC system that croaks out a steady stream of disease into the kennel area. Kansas City Missouri didn’t want to spend money to house animals in a humane and modern fashion or pay for an experienced, proven organization like Great Plains (Heartland) to turn its shelter around.

So Kansas City council members selected KC Pet Project, the low-bid organization, which has since had more than its share of problems in its first year. The group operated for half a year without an executive director after its initial director resigned after only five months. Though KCPP claims it has achieved no-kill status, its reputation is still tainted by rescue community concerns over irresponsible adoption policies, high staff turnover and a president and vice president who work full-time jobs somewhere else.

Let’s hope that Independence, Missouri council members make a better choice for homeless pets.

Independence now has the opportunity to partner with Great Plains SPCA to operate Jackson County Missouri’s new 28,000 square-foot Regional Animal Shelter built earlier this year. Jackson County recently contracted with Great Plains SPCA to operate the facility as a no-kill shelter beginning on January 1, 2013.

On Monday, December 17, the Independence city council will vote on whether to house homeless animals in Independence’s existing city shelter (a 7,100-square-foot facility built in 1978) or contract with Jackson County to use Great Plains as a third-party vendor and move Independence’s animal shelter to the new, state-of-the-art, no-kill facility. The new building has remained empty since completion this summer while Jackson County searched for a non-profit group to operate the shelter.

Not everyone on the Independence council is excited about enlisting Great Plains to run the Independence shelter. Some council members insist that the city already does a great job of running the old facility and  that Independence should form its own non-profit to run the shelter.

The Independence city council needs to see that citizens are watching their decision with great interest and will hold them accountable. That’s why it’s important that there be a large public presence at Monday’s meeting. Nothing convinces city officials more than a huge crowd that cares enough about an issue to drag themselves to a city meeting on a Monday night.

Great Plains CEO Courtney Thomas has done an outstanding job of bringing compassionate and responsible animal sheltering to the Kansas City area. If the Independence council votes yes on Monday to contract with Great Plains, this proven organization will bring no-kill practices to a once high-kill shelter and offer the public an inviting place to visit and adopt animals. (Note: Independence currently claims to be a no-kill shelter).

Dog Waiting for a New Home at Great Plains New Facility

Dog Waiting for a New Home at Great Plains New Facility

The opportunity to partner with Great Plains offers Independence the opportunity to bring animal sheltering in the Kansas City area into the 21st century. Let’s hope that the Independence city council is forward-thinking enough to realize that contracting with Great Plains to run its city shelter is a move that will gain citizens’ respect and better the entire community.

*** The final vote on this issue is this Monday, December 17 at 6 p.m. at Independence
City Hall, 111 Maple Ave, Independence, Missouri 64050. (816-325-7000)

Enter through the doors marked “Municipal Court.”

Photo Credit: Great Plains SPCA


About Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is involved in the Kansas City, Missouri animal rescue community and is a freelance writer.


One thought on “Crucial Council Vote to Determine Future of Independence Animal Shelter

  1. As the President of KC Pet Project, I want to correct some mis-information that is in Ms. Hipp’s piece here.

    First of all, I want to echo that the Great Plains SPCA is a great organization and I do hope the Independence City Council chooses to allow them to run the new shelter.

    As for Ms. Hipp’s cheap shots at KCPP, here is a bit of clarity to her mis-information.

    1) There were actually several reasons for Kansas City, MO to choose KC Pet Project over GPSPCA. I won’t get into specifics, but there were other reasons beyond just cost. I am thankful that the city upped their budget by more than $400,000 to hire KCPP because it gave us an opportunity to make some real improvements at the shelter and save nearly 1500 more lives than the most ever saved at the shelter — including a 90+% save rate since July 1 of this year.

    2) Ms Hipp is incorrect about the HVAC system at the KCMO shelter — and the HVAC system in the primary shelter does operate as a single-flow system that does not recirculate air as Ms. Hipp mistakenly thinks.

    3) The “president and vice president” that Deb refers to are on the Board of Directors of the organization. A Board of Directors is required of all 501c3 organizations and are generally mostly separate from the people who operate the shelter on a day-to-day basis. It would be common for the members of the Board of Directors to have jobs and be members of the community and is that way for virtually every legitimate 501c3 organization in the state — including the Great Plains SPCA.

    Ms. Hipp cites other criticism, most of which are her opinions based on an overall lack of knowledge of the circumstances and the organization. I am very proud of the staff and group at KC Pet Project and their stepping up to the challenge of taking what once was a very high-kill shelter and turning it into an organization that has achieved local and national attention for key life-saving initiatives.

    It’s a shame Ms. Hipp would use her platform to take personal shots at me, spreading false information and showing off her lack of knowlege of organizations structure vs stepping up for the good of the animals.

    Posted by Brent | December 16, 2012, 10:15 pm

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