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Warm weather overflows animal shelter again

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A million-dollar cat wing at the Rowan County Animal Shelter hasn’t prevented an event that traditionally comes during warmer months.

In recent weeks, the shelter has filled up faster than usual. The recently opened cat wing provided more space, but it hasn’t stopped cats from producing kittens.

Animal Services Director Bob Pendergrass said the shelter saw 78 animals per week coming into the shelter in April. That number became 112 animals per week in May. After just over one week has passed in June, Pendergrass said this month’s statistics are 134 animals per week. A majority of the incoming animals are cats.

With the current rate, an empty cat wing at the Rowan County Animal Shelter would fill up in a little more than a week.

Pendergrass estimated animal rescue groups adopt 90 percent of the shelter’s animals. With the large intake numbers, however, local rescue groups haven’t been able to prevent all adoptable cats from being euthanized.

“This time of year, we do get a lot more cats, and that’s because cats are having kittens, Pendergrass said.

On Friday, for example, 32 cats and kittens were euthanized.

In an effort to prevent the animals from being euthanized, some local animal rescue groups have offered to pay part of the cost of adoption. One group, for example, has offered to pay half of the cost for adult cats. At various points, groups have offered to pay half of the cost of some kittens. Even at half price, the adoption fee still includes deworming, a microchip, the first set of vaccines and a $70 voucher for the animal to be spayed or neutered.

“Of course everyone wants cute, cuddly kittens, but that leaves their moms and dads,” said animal advocate Jen Frasier, who runs Purfect Purbaby Rescue.

A Facebook page called Friends of the Rowan County Shelter Animals has regularly listed available discounts. Potential adopters can also check with shelter staff about ongoing discounts.

Pendergrass said it’s hard to determine whether owner-surrendered cats or feral cats make up a majority of the shelter’s intake. In a number of cases, he said, people gradually start feeding wild cats. Then, the wild cats have kittens. When a person brings those wild cats into the shelter, the animals are considered owner-surrendered but don’t actually belong to any one person.

Animal advocates and shelter staff frequently disagree about a litany of matters. In this case, both parties agree on the solution for a summer boom in incoming cats.

“The main thing I would encourage people to consider strongly is to spay and neuter pets,” Pendergrass said. “That is going to be the long term solution.”

As part of the adoption fee, the shelter offers a free voucher for people to spay and neuter their newly adopted pet. Historically, adopters haven’t spayed or neutered animals at a 100 percent rate.

When people don’t use the spay or neuter voucher, it further contributes to the problem, said Candace Honeycutt Terry, who runs the Friends of Rowan the Rowan County Shelter Animals Facebook page. Terry said it’s crucial that people understand the important of spaying or neutering pets.

Even if people can’t permanently adopt an animal, Terry said people can help rescue groups by volunteering; donating time, money, food, or other items; or temporarily fostering an animal.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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