Pearl, Squidward, Sandy, Spongebob and Gary are the lucky ones. The five 6-week-old kittens, all black and white, have a foster home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Other animals fostered from Alachua County Animal Services are not so lucky.
When fosters go out of town for the holiday, animals are often dropped off at the shelter because they cannot fly with their foster or are not able to stay in another home. ACAS can’t turn any animals away even though they have limited extra space.
Dory Rosati, adoption coordinator for ACAS, said the shelter is currently 26 animals over capacity, which is the most crowded she’s ever seen or heard of. When this occurs, ACAS runs out of kennel space for the animals. This past month, Rosati said the volunteers stacked crates on top of one another for extra space for kittens and cats.
“It’s not slowing down in a way that we normally see in the fall,” Rosati said. “We’ve had at least one litter of puppies every week for the past month be brought in. Two weeks ago we had over 15 animals in the first half hour we were open.”
The shelter’s last option is euthanasia if it becomes too crowded, but Rosati said she hopes ACAS won’t have to resort to that for this holiday season.
ACAS isn’t alone in their search for pet-friendly homes. An “urgent” call for Thanksgiving foster homes was posted on the Alachua County Humane Society’s Facebook page, asking anyone who stays in Alachua County to consider fostering an animal for the weekend, and would provide all food and supplies to temporary fosters.
Squidward and Spongebob will be fostered by University of Florida veterinary student Ariel Smith. Her fellow UF vet classmate, Megan Sullivan, is flying home to Vermont for the Thanksgiving break.
“I’ve been wanting to adopt a cat for awhile,” Ariel Smith said. “They were supposed to go up for adoption this weekend, but they got sick and still need to be fostered.”
The ACAS office is closed Thursday and Friday of the Thanksgiving holiday, but animals can still be dropped off during those days, since animal services is an open intake facility, meaning they can’t turn any animals away. A security guard will be on duty, and many fostered pets are often brought back to ACAS before the owner leaves town, without any preparations made for the animal.
“Even though we aren’t giving any animals away, we still have many animals coming in (during the Thanksgiving break),” Rosati said. “This is what makes the holidays really stressful for us, because we are never off.”
Normally during this time of year, the shelter sees fewer animals brought in because it’s not kitten season, since more kittens are born in the spring and summer. However, with the shelter over capacity, and a holiday approaching, Rosati is concerned about space for the animals.
“Anyone that stays in town, we need their help,” Rosati said.