By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Veterinarian Jessica Braun is making her own plea to the public:

Don't drop off animals willy-nilly during off hours. It's not healthy for the animals.

Just last week a box with a towel in it -- most likely containing some critter -- was left on the porch.

"We have cats out here so I don't know what was in it," Braun said. Most likely, whatever was in the box was something of a meal for the cats.

The box had been left on the porch at the Animal Health Center, located on 27th Street just off the Commerce Parkway interchange. That's also where the Western Plains Animal Refuge is located.

A similar situation also faced a baby robin that had been dropped off. While the cats didn't get to it, too much time passed until it was found, and then the bird had died.

"We have five doors here," she said. "When we're closed, we don't do a perimeter check."

As if that wasn't enough, a dog was left in a box recently and was able to escape. But it didn't want anyone approaching it. Fortunately, she said, it didn't mind riding in a car.

"I drove right up in the car and it jumped in," Braun said.

She also had 11 cats dropped off.

While she is glad to help when she can, those 11 brought the total number of cats on hand to 40.

"Which is way over what we usually keep," she said.

Domestic animals, Braun said, are subject to a drop-off fee, just as they are at the Hays Area Humane Society.

"Wild animals," she said, "they could call. We don't charge for them. If they want to make a donation, that's great."

The recent drop-offs have filled the center to the gills, so to speak.

She still has eight Chihuahuas on hand -- out of the original 12 she received -- that were seized by the Hays Animal Control officer.

"They're all super sweet," she said of the little dogs being available for adoption.

She's not sure if the adoption rate has been slow because of the economy or simply because it's always slow in the summer months.

Adopting an animal only costs $100, and she said that's a small price for an spayed or neutered animal that has its shots and has been treated for heart worms.

"I'm a no-kill center," she said, "so I've got a waiting list of animals to come in."

In fact, Braun said she sent out a message to other adoption centers asking for help in placing the string of cats she has on hand.

They all said they'd be happy to help, but said they also need to place the overgrowing supply of cats they have as well.

Dog-wise, Braun has three others in addition to the Chihuahuas.

The problem with an abundance of surrendered dogs and cats is that the animal center helps to fund the refuge. If the cages are filled, she's unable to board animals.

Rather than operate both a profit and non profit system, she'd like to put both in a non profit set up.

"Basically, we're trying to raise the funds to purchase the land and building from the bank," she said.

With 12 acres of land, Braun said she could set up an animal park and have the space for rehabilitation of wild animals.

Braun would like to make the conversion by the end of the year if possible.

If that can happens, she said, they'd be able to provide the opportunity for free spaying and neutering of pets and low-cost vaccination and examinations.

Even with all that going on, Braun is hopeful that people will call rather than simply drop off wild animals.

The Animal Health Center can be reached by calling (785) 621-4222. You can learn more about the refuge online at site.westernplainsanimalrefuge.org.