Stray Rescue's animal shelter is already full. With winter approaching and more protests expected in St. Louis later this year, that's a big problem, says founder Randy Grim.
Ever since civil unrest took place in Ferguson after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, Stray Rescue has been taking in more runaway and abandoned animals. Grim says he's seen significantly more dogs on the streets suffering from gunshot wounds.
Now, Grim says, he's preparing for the worst and praying for peace.
"Human lives, all human lives, matter," Grim tells Daily RFT. "But we forget about our four-legged friends sometimes, and they get caught up in the violence. They get injured and they end up with us at the shelter, and that is the lucky ones."
The unlucky ones? They die on the streets. Grim says he found many dogs dead on the end of their chains during last winter's unusually cold temperatures. When temperatures drop, food and water sources freeze up, and unprotected dogs develop hypothermia or sometimes freeze to death. "Let's just pray it's not a winter like last year. That was really tough."
Grim says it would be unrealistic not to plan for the possibility of violent protests after the release of a grand-jury investigation into Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot Brown August 9. Loud noises, especially gunshots, cause dogs to escape from their homes -- something Stray Rescue deals with every Fourth of July and New Year's Eve.
"The dogs run away because of people shooting off guns to celebrate, and it makes a busy time for us," Grim says. "With civil unrest, if it's a worst-case scenario, I want to be ready for that so we are able to save as many dogs as end up on the streets. It would be an error on our part not to be prepared for the very worst."
Part of being prepared means adopting out as many dogs as possible to make room for new animals at the shelter. Thanks to a recent grant, Stray Rescue is lowering its adoption fee from $100 to $25. The fee includes spay or neuter, a microchip, vaccinations and free training for a year.
Grim's mission is to rescue animals in need, but as St. Louis braces for news from the grand jury, Grim says he's anxious for the city's humans as well.
"We are praying for peace, not just for the animals' sakes, but for the entire city," Grim says. "I'm hoping that whatever happens with the Michael Brown case that we approach it with love, understanding and peace."