Wichita animal rescue on animal control staffing: ‘There is simply not enough man power’

Animal Shelter (KSN File Photo)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Some people are calling animal rescue groups rather than animal control officers during the cold weather months, according to a Wichita rescue member.

“Anytime the temperatures get extreme, we have a lot of animal lovers who get concerned about the state or condition of certain animals out in the elements and they want to make sure they are properly provided for,” said Founder and Executive Director of Wichita Animal Action League (WAAL) Sarah Coffman.

Sarah Coffman said about a dozen concerned citizens will call WAAL each week and ask them to check on the welfare of animals.

“It’s usually like ‘hey, I think my neighbor could use some help. They don’t have a dog house or, you know, their water bucket is frozen’ and those are the calls we go out on,” Coffman said.

The calls are very similar to what comes into Wichita Animal Control during the winter months.

“This time of the year, because the temperature is dropping, we will get a lot of calls during the week. Right now, we are averaging probably close to 30 in a weeks time,” said Wichita Police Lieutenant Brian Sigman. “People are calling in because their neighbors, or they see a dog that could be bitterly cold outside and that dog has no shelter or they see that it’s tied up to a fence and it’s on that fence all day, so they will call in and we in turn go out and try our best to rectify the situation.”

However, at times it can be difficult for animal control officers to respond to neglect or welfare check calls immediately. Sigman said it’s likely because the department is short-staffed. Right now, there is only one or two officers responding to calls.

“The ideal situation is to have three or more out in the field. Right now, we don’t have that,” Sigman said. “What we are finding out is they call the rescues because they know the rescues will usually be able to come out a lot quicker than we can, given the circumstances.”

“There is simply not enough man power to go around. Animal control is very underfunded and so what we like to do is try and take care of the little issues so that they can go take care of the big issues,” Coffman said. “We always show up with a bag of food, a heated water bowl, dog houses, owners are always really receptive to that. They appreciate the support and the help and they appreciate not being judged.”

Both Coffman and Sigman said the working relationship between the rescues and animal control has been beneficial for both organizations as well as the Wichita community.

“Without the rescues, you know, we wouldn’t be able to offer as much help,” Sigman said. “We just have one end goal and that’s the welfare of that animal and making sure that it’s safe.”

Sigman said he is working with the City of Wichita to hire additional animal control staff. He said he’s optimistic about the outcome.

To report neglect or call for a welfare check contact the Wichita Animal Shelter at (316) 350-3366 or WAAL at welfare@waalrescue.org.