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Extended Kitten Season Affecting Animal Services No-Kill Status

Natalie Davis adopts a kitten at the Humane Society recently. Chrissy Sedgley, director of shelter operations at the humane society said that they have been seeing an increase in adoptions in the past months.
Natalie Davis adopts a kitten at the Humane Society recently. Chrissy Sedgley, director of shelter operations at the humane society said that they have been seeing an increase in adoptions in the past months.

When it comes to mating season in Florida, cats don't go by the calendar.

In most places, kitten season begins in the spring and ends in the fall, said Chrissy Sedgley, director of shelter operations at the Alachua County Humane Society. But, she said, because of the warm weather through most of the year in Florida, cats tend to ignore that timeline.

For those working in the animal rescue business, that means overflowing kitten rooms and an overwhelming number of bottle babies in need of foster homes.

“Kitten season is typically April through September, but in Florida the cats have forgotten that they are supposed to reproduce in a season and it’s all year-round pretty much,” Sedgley said. “But, in the spring time we definitely see a huge influx of underage kittens.”

The Humane Society is a local animal rescue that gets most of their cats and dogs from animal services, relieving some of its workload. Alachua County Animal Services has been working hard to reach a 90 percent live release rate of the animals in its care for 2015, but the continuation of kitten season into November could make it difficult.

“I usually try to pull strictly from the euthanasia list, but sometimes we’ll take some of their more adoptable animals that are already spayed or neutered,” Sedgley said. “It kind of depends on what room we have in our program.”

Just last Thursday, Sedgley agreed to take eight cats from animal services.

Vernon Sawyer, director of Alachua County Animal Services said that the organization is currently at an 87 percent live release rate. Animal services works closely with other local rescue agencies to keep the euthanasia rate down and get to their goal of being no-kill.

“No-kill is a big term, and it can be taken in several different ways,” Sawyer said. “When I say no-kill, I mean we’re not killing any healthy adoptable animals.”

No-kill does not mean that all animals would be adopted, Sawyer said. Animals with untreatable illnesses and behavioral issues that prevent adoption would still be humanely euthanized. Usually to be considered no-kill, a shelter would need to euthanize no more than 10 percent of the animals in its care.

Sawyer said the effort to make Alachua County no-kill is a group effort that requires all local animal rescues to work together. Unlike other organizations, animal services is unable to turn any animals away.

This year 4,527 animals have been taken in so far. Thirty-three percent were adopted directly from animal services, 43 percent were adopted from other rescue groups, and 11 percent were returned to their owners. That leaves 13 percent, or 598 animals, euthanized by animal services.

Being 3 percent away from their yearly goal, the overcrowded cat room at animal services is an added stress.

“Any animal that walks through our doors affects our rate or our percentage and our goal to reach no-kill status,” he said.

When people bring in very adoptable animals they think they're not contributing to the euthanasia rates, but what they don’t understand is that they are taking a spot away from another animal, Sawyer said.

The Wagmore Foundation, a group of local donors and contributors, has donated money and resources to the humane society and other local animal rescues to help with animal care and reduce adoption fees.

Sawyer said the contributions of the Wagmore Foundation allow local rescues to take on more animals from animal services, giving the organization the ability to focus more on their animals in need of extra attention.

“It just gives us a lot of freedom to do a lot more with the animals and to avoid having to euthanize them,” Sawyer said.

Sedgley said the humane society has seen an increase in adoptions over the past couple of months. In February, they saw about 50 or 60 animals adopted. However, during the North Florida Pet Adoption Days, a single event in June, saw close to 500 animals adopted in a single weekend.

“Since then, we’ve been close to 100 adoptions a month, so they have increased,” Sedgley said.

Adoptions are the vital key to the cycle and the goal of a no-kill county.

“We can save more animals so it’s kind of like saving two lives," Sedgley said. "You adopt an animal from us, and then you make space to bring in another."

Jessica is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.