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Santa Rosa Animal Shelter At Full Capacity — Again

The Santa Rosa Animal Shelter is at capacity and currently overrun with cats and kittens.
Santa Rosa County
The Santa Rosa Animal Shelter is at capacity and currently overrun with cats and kittens.

Santa Rosa County Animal Shelter is once again at full capacity with more than 300 animals in their care and they’re calling on the community to help alleviate a strain on resources.

In April, the shelter waived adoption fees to clear the packed shelter. Santa Rosa County Community Relations Specialist Leah Thornton said the campaign helped more than 100 animals get adopted or placed with rescue groups, but it didn’t take long for the shelter to get full again.

“We’re already back up,” said Thornton. The challenges don’t stop. We’re trying to work on changing community sentiment.”

In a press release, the county broke down the numbers of the 300 animals in its care; 139 of which are currently in foster homes, 46 are available for adoption and 23 are in need of a foster home. Others are on holds, in quarantine, or needing assessment.

“A lot of our animals are in foster homes, which is awesome, but that still means the shelter is in charge of their care,” Thornton said.

Owners not spaying or neutering their pets is one of the causes for the full shelter.

“We have a litter of 10 puppies in one kennel,” Thornton said.

Kitten season is in full bloom, but the shelter is not only at capacity when it comes to space, its resources are maxed out. The shelter’s 30 foster homes are currently full of litters of kittens. A female cat can get pregnant at just four months old and produce two to three litters every season.

Santa Rosa County Animal Shelter at Capacity

While the county adopted a Community Cat Program in 2019, the resources to spay and neuter community cats have dwindled and animal services have to now prioritize the animals at the shelter and in foster care.

“Our TNR funds were through a grant that depleted sometime in December or January,” said Thornton. “

Thornton said the shelter is now inundated with kitten intakes from well-meaning citizens, but it’s not always the best plan.

“If you see stray kittens stop and think ‘do they look happy and fed?’” Thornton explained. “People think they might be saving the day, but a majority of kittens are being pulled from their mom. If you really want to help, you can foster them and we will provide all of the food and medicine.”

Three years ago, the shelter made local headlines when it reported the highest euthanasia rate out of all 67 counties in the state of Florida. In June 2018 alone, the shelter reported an 80% euthanasia rate. Since then, the shelter has made “transformational changes,” said Thornton. In 2019, the shelter partnered with Best Friends Animal Society, which provided a long-time state member to help implement new shelter practices.

One of the newer practices is the end of owner surrenders, instead, the shelter is asking owners to re-home their pets through rescue organizations or various Facebook pages dedicated to rehoming animals.

The new practices are working. Thornton said the shelter currently has a 95% save rate.

“That means 95% of animals that come to us have a positive outcome,” she added. “We’ve not had to euthanize (animals) for space. We’re doing everything humanely possible to save them.”

Shelter staff is also busy doing outreach about the animals in their care sharing photos and videos on social media. They even started a TikTok which has reached 1,500 followers, which is not bad for a small animal shelter.

“People don’t see the shelter for all the wonderful changes,” said Thornton.

But caring for the county’s lost and stray animals takes some community efforts. Even if you can’t adopt, there are other ways to make a difference.

“Fostering provides the best benefits but it’s not easy,” said Thornton. “It takes a lot of dedication. Donate if you can through ourAmazon wish list, follow us on social media or volunteer at the shelter.”

Learn more about the county's foster program here.

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.