Cat season: Brunswick County Animal Services inundated with homeless felines

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

SUPPLY — Lt. Tommy Tolley led an impromptu tour past cages filled with homeless kittens and cats.

Feline breeding season has arrived, said the director of Brunswick County Animal Services, walking past assorted cats and kittens in cages in adoption, intake and stray rooms.

The shelter 429 Green Swamp Road (N.C. 211) is full to feline capacity.

“Spring and summer are the biggest birthing time of all the cats,” Tolley said. “We knew we were going to get hit hard.”

It’s also an uphill battle all the time, he said.

“We feel like we get ahead of it, then we get hit with a wave of kittens and cats,” he said. “You think it’s offspring and kittens, but we get hit with just as many adult cats brought in, so it’s not like it just happened.”

The shelter gets a mixture of cats from all over the county —domestic turn-ins as well as strays and ferals — brought in by animal control officers and the public.

“You name it, they come in here every different way,” said Tolley, who estimates 70 percent of shelter employees’ time is spent dealing with cats versus other types of animals.

Longtime shelter animal care specialist Nancy Powers can vouch for that.

“Unfortunately, as hard as we’re working on making them more adoptable, not many people come in looking for cats for adoption,” Tolley said.

The shelter is adopting between 65 to 70 percent of its dogs, compared with only 15 to 20 percent of its cats.

To help offset that, two summers ago the shelter reduced its feline adoption fee to $15, after the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office took over management of the county animal shelter in July 2012.

The per-cat adoption fee includes a wellness check, a feline leukemia/FIV test, a rabies vaccination, a first-month Frontline flea application, and a voucher for spay or neuter surgery.

“It’s what we do,” Tolley said. “We don’t want to make people feel guilty for bringing animals here. We are here to take the unwanted animals, but we don’t want to euthanize animals no more than anybody else. If we can minimize euthanasia of animals, we want to do our part.”


Numbers reduced

The good news is the shelter “absolutely” has been able to significantly reduce its euthanasia rate for all animals in the past year. It’s down by 500, plus the shelter has taken in 500 fewer animals, Tolley said.

“That’s a 1,000-animal swing,” he said.

For the first six months of 2014, from Jan. 1 of this year through this past Monday, June 30, the shelter had taken in precisely 1,300 cats, released 324 and put down 950 because of illness or space.

That compares to 1,595 cats brought in during the same six-month time frame in 2013, including 222 live releases and 1,340 having to be euthanized.

The shelter works with local rescue groups, including Cat Tails, Adopt An Angel, RACE and Furever Friends, to help find new homes for its population of adoptable cats.

“The dogs have definitely improved with the spay and neutering; we’re seeing less numbers of puppy litters,” Tolley said. “But the thing is the frequency. A mother cat can get pregnant while she’s nursing other cats. We want people just to understand the makeup of a cat and how frequently they can produce litters. It’s very pitiful to see these six-week-old kittens come in here that are malnourished or sick, and we can’t adopt those malnourished animals back out to the public.”

The shelter continues to evaluate its animals and pull out adoptable ones, and volunteers are working hard to make the animals more adoptable. Shelter adoption outreach coordinator Heather Hunt is also orchestrating community efforts.

“We’re taking more (cats) to adoption fairs and showing them in the best light possible,” Tolley said.

Office hours at the shelter, at 429 Green Swamp Road (N.C. 211) in Supply, are 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays; viewing hours to see the animals are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call 754-8204, go to http://aps.brunswicksheriff.com, or Facebook: Brunswick Sheriff’s Animal Adoption Page.


Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.