‘Lives are on the line’ — Rowan County Animal Shelter hosting adoption event to offset cat surge

Published 12:10 am Thursday, July 11, 2024

SALISBURY — The seasonal surge of feline reproduction is proving inordinately excessive this year, prompting area rescues to sound the alarm. To address the problem, the Rowan County Animal Center is hosting an 80-percent-off adoption event on Saturday in an effort to lighten its load.

“What’s happening right now is we have hit the summer months,” Animal Services Director Maria Pannell said. “During the summer, the animal shelter constantly stays at capacity.”

Typically, when at capacity, the shelter relies on area rescue organizations to help ensure the cats are at least fostered until they can be adopted.

Maureen McGrath leads one of those organizations. She is the director of Carolina Sanctuary and Rescue. Organizations like McGrath’s have limited resources, and they are already stretched thin.

“We need more fosters,” McGrath said, putting it plainly.

Pannell echoed that sentiment.

“The problem is the rescues we rely on are full,” Pannell said. “They don’t have enough folks to foster, and they are running out of resources.”

Pannell indicated that the shelter has not had to euthanize any adoptable cats or kittens for quite some time. Unfortunately, some animals are determined to be unadoptable. That usually stems from the health of the animal.

Historically, they usually turn felines into adoptees within two weeks to 20 days, although sometimes it takes longer.

“We have general rules about how long we keep them,” Pannell said. “Those rules do shift depending on the time of year and how much space we have in our facility.”

When they are unable to directly adopt a cat or kitten out, those foster organizations can serve as a stop gap solution. However, with those organizations pushed to their limits, Pannell is worried they may not be able to find a home, permanent or temporary, for the massive influx of cats they are currently seeing. If that proves the case, euthanizations could follow.

“That’s our concern,” Pannell said. “And that is our biggest fear. We have not had to euthanize a healthy or adoptable cat in the last few years.
“With rescue organizations (stretched thin), we are extremely concerned that that may not be the case this year.”

Fostering a cat frees up space at the Rowan County Animal Shelter, which allows them to admit more surrenders and strays. However, with these foster and rescue organizations pushed to their brinks, adoption events like the one on Saturday sometimes become necessary.

To incentivize adoption, the event is offering cats at 80 percent off the normal $80 adoption fee at no compromise to the services rendered.

“They still get all of the vaccinations, microchips and everything with a normal adoption,” Pannell said.

Normally, those adoption fees go to reimburse the shelter for expenses incurred through those services, but with the shelter at capacity, they want to rehome the cats and kittens first and foremost.

With the reduced costs of the fee at the event on Saturday, Pannell pointed to another perk for adoptive families that won’t burden them after taking home a new cat or kitten.

“They can save the money towards more fun things for the cat,” Pannell said. “We hope it brings a lot of privately adopted cats so we are not putting the burden on rescue groups.”

The event takes place at the animal shelter, located at 1465 Julian Road in Salisbury on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We usually have one to two adoption events per month,” Pannell said. “Our hope is people will come in and see a fully vaccinated animal and take it home with them.”

The shelter needs families to adopt or at least foster animals while they are experiencing this surge.

“We do adopt to the public and hope we get a lot of folks coming to bring an animal into their home,” Pannell said.

With no end in sight for the influx of cats and kittens, the situation is growing worrisome. Those that do foster cats or kittens are asking for individuals or families to consider doing the same.

“I think it’s everywhere,” said Wendy Burnette, a foster parent with Carolina Sanctuary and Rescue. “Everywhere is crying for fosters.”

Burnette said that the problem is not so much fewer fosters but rather more cats.

“It’s hard,” Burnette said. “We need help. We need fosters.”

The situation at hand is two-pronged, with both arms feeling constraints from less-than-ideal manpower.

Currently, the shelter has one veterinarian on staff. They hope to change that. The Rowan County Board of Commissioners approved an additional $125,000 in the Animal Services Department’s budget to hire another veterinarian. It’s the only new position approved for all of the Animal Services Department, which includes animal enforcement and the Nature Center at Dan Nicholas.

That budget went into effect on July 1. Pannell is optimistic that they will be able to get someone in soon. The current veterinarian is out on temporary sick leave, and Pannell indicated that they would like them to be back before they commence the hiring process since the two veterinarians will be working together.

“Our veterinarian is not able to fix all of them,” Pannell said. “That is due to the sheer volume with one individual on staff. That hopefully is going to change here shortly.

“We are going to be putting that (job posting) out pretty soon to get a second veterinarian in here, and the point of that is to try to get every animal fixed before it leaves. Right now, the ones that aren’t fixed before they leave go out with a spay/neuter voucher for getting them fixed outside of the facility, but our goal in the very near future is to be that nothing age-appropriate leaves without being fixed.”

While there is hope for the future of the cats and kittens at the shelter, McGrath brought up a possible avenue that could improve outlooks.

McGrath has been spearheading her foster organization for more than a decade. She might live in Kentucky, but she is well versed on the ground in Rowan County. With her organization fostering so many cats and kittens from the shelter, she’s asking other rescues to step up and she believes a full-time rescue coordinator could help with that.

When she started, she said that per her understanding, the shelter did not have the best reputation for being easy to work with. Her experience since that time contradicts that notion.

“I think they have changed that (reputation),” McGrath said. “I don’t agree with that assessment, and I know, I talk with them every day.”

Still, McGrath feels like someone who could dedicate their time to networking and coordinating with rescues in and around Rowan County, the shelter would be better equipped to withstand summertime influxes.

“We need the public to help to adopt, and we need other rescues to come to aid,” McGrath said.  “For that, (the shelter) needs a budget for a rescue coordinator. They need someone to go out and build relationships with other rescues and organizations.”

Organizations like Carolina Sanctuary and Rescue and the Rowan County Animal Shelter are determined to continue their work because they know the stakes are high.

“Lives are on the line,” McGrath said.

Pannell encourages anyone with questions to contact the Rowan County Animal Shelter at 704-216-7768. To learn more about Carolina Sanctuary and Rescue, visit its Facebook page.