Kitten season is in full effect at the Santa Rosa County Animal Shelter and staff is calling on the community to help as the shelter reaches capacity.
“This time of year is always busy,” said Dale Hamilton, director of the Santa Rosa County Animal Shelter. “It’s cat season — we have a lot of dogs, too, but the cats are the main thing.”
As of yesterday afternoon, the shelter had 87 dogs, 168 cats — and one pot-bellied pig. Hamilton said there’s been a constant flow of intakes.
“Yesterday, for example, we brought six or seven dogs to the Pensacola Humane Society and those kennels were full before we could even get to the parking lot,” he said.
Kitten season typically lasts from March to October and puts a strain on shelters and rescue groups alike. A female cat can become pregnant at 4 months old and her litter can be anywhere from four to eight kittens, which is why Santa Rosa County Shelter and other animal rescue groups stress the importance of spaying and neutering.
“We preach spay and neuter all the time,” Hamilton said. “If you don’t spay and neuter, they’re just out there making more.”
Although the county does not offer spaying and neutering services to the public, there are resources out there. The nonprofit organization, A Hope, regularly transports animals to Operation Spay Bay in Panama City to receive low-cost spaying and neutering.
“The only way to control overcrowding (at the shelter) is to be a responsible pet owner and get your animals fixed,” said Paige Cary, spokesperson for A Hope.
This time last year, the shelter was under fire when it reported an 80% euthanasia rate — one of the highest in the state. Hamilton admitted that the news wasn’t good, but it helped the shelter raise awareness on the issue, and secure more funding to hire a part-time veterinarian and purchase shelter supplies such as animal-safe cleaning products.
“Nobody wants to kill animals,” he said. “We’ve improved numbers by a ton. We’re going in the right direction. We have an overcrowding issue every spring and summer, but we have more support this year than we did last year.”
In May 2018, the shelter euthanized 383 animals. Comparatively last month, the number was 94. Hamilton said one reason for the decrease was that animal control is no longer trapping feral cats and the increase of fosters.
Hamilton said the shelter population is a “community problem.” Outside of fixing animals, there are opportunities to foster pets — more importantly kittens who require more care.
“People are finding cats every day and bringing them in,” Hamilton said. “We try to direct people to other programs and rescues, but unfortunately, a lot of those places are full, too.”
You can find adoption and fostering information on the Santa Rosa County website. Cat adoption fees are $10 through Aug. 31 and include altering and rabies vaccine.