The kennels and cages at the Belleville Area Humane Society are full and there is often a waiting list of cats, dogs, puppies and kittens looking for a forever home.
"We adopt out between 1,200 and 1,400 dogs and cats a year," Belleville Area Humane Society board member Shelly Korves said. "It's crazy, it's really crazy and it can be really overwhelming at times. Some days, the amount of homeless animals there are is really overwhelming."
The organization has been in the business of finding homes for pets for more than 60 years and depends entirely on donations to operate. It receives no state money.
"We rescue animals from Animal Control once a week. We take in injured animals, puppies and kittens," Korves said. "Animal Control takes in strays, we take owner requests and then rescue the strays from Animal Control."
The strays are often skinny, dirty, matted and skittish, Korves said.
"It takes a lot of time, love, and money to get them ready for adoption," Korves said. "We bring them in, comfort them, clean them up, get them their shots, spay or neuter them and basically get them ready to go to their forever home."
Virtually every day, the organization also takes in surrendered animals.
"We are always filled to capacity with a waiting list," Korves said. "Every day there is someone walking in with a basket full of kittens, a box full of puppies, or someone is moving and they can't keep the dog or a parent is going into a nursing home and they can't take the cat."
About 3,000 animals find their way to the Humane Society every year, but not all are adoptable due to severe health problems, aggression or other potentially dangerous socialization issues. The unadoptable animals are euthanized.
Occasionally, the shelter also must deal with animals that suffer from distemper or other diseases before they can be adopted out.
"We always tell people that if you come in and you don't see what you want today, just check with us because we are always getting new animals," Korves said. "Our goal is to find as many good homes for as many animals as is humanly possible."
Before it is deemed adoptable, each animal is spayed or neutered, brought up-to-date on vaccinations and microchipped. Volunteers spend time with the animals that might be a bit skittish or scared or maybe has a minor behavioral problem.
The adoption fee for a dog is $120. The adoption fee for cats is between $50 and $75, depending on the age of the cat.
"It's actually a really good deal," Korves added.
The adoption process involves filling out an application and visiting with the animal. Potential adopters are encouraged to bring their current pets to the humane society to see how they will get along with a potential adoptee. Once the application is approved and the pet matched, the adoption can proceed.
"We try our best to send them off with someone we think they will be a good match with," Korves said. "We don't want to make matches that don't work out. It's heartbreaking for the family and hard on the animals."
The organization relies on volunteers to walk and bathe dogs, play with the cats and help with frequent fundraising events.
"We have a multitude of different things we need volunteers for," Korves said.
Aside from the always welcome monetary donations, the Humane Society is always accepting donations of Purina Dog Chow, Cat Chow, Kitten Chow and Puppy Chow, cat litter, blankets and towels, bleach, detergent, dog toys, cat toys, leashes and collars.
"We try to send everyone home with a collar," Korves said. "And leashes are treasured because we need them so often around here."
The shelter closed its doors to the public in late November and has been under quarantine due to ill animals in the shelter. After a final health inspection by the state veterinarian to assure all animals are healthy, the facility expects to reopen Dec. 26.
Thinking about a dog, cat, puppy, or kitten? See the animals available for adoption by visiting www.petfinder.com and entering Belleville's zip code, 62222.
The organization expects to have a newly revamped website up an running by the end of January. That website can be found at www.bellevilleareahumanesociety.com.