Just over a week ago, we found ourselves in a difficult and sad situation at the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. Kitten season was a bit delayed this year, but when it hit, it hit hard, and before we knew it our feline capacity had stretched well beyond our limit for humane care.
The adoption floor was full, the intake and holding rooms were full, the nursery was full, and the quarantine room was full. Rooms designed for "meet and greet" opportunities now held cats, and our back hallways held crates of kittens and cats. In total, there were 230 felines being cared for in a building designed to hold much less.
On Friday, June 28th, key staff members held an emotional meeting to discuss options. The thought of euthanizing healthy animals for space is not something we have had to consider for many years since becoming a limited admission, "no-kill" animal shelter. It goes against our vision and our "Let Love Live" philosophy.
But, we had already reduced or waived adoption fees, were marketing the cats daily over social media, sent kittens out to foster homes and reached out to northern shelters for transport inquiries. Still, the number of cats coming in far exceeded the adoption demand. We were turning away owner surrenders, but our obligation to the City of Aiken meant stray cats and kittens, brought in by officers and citizens, continued to overwhelm our capacity.
We decided to reach out to our media friends and emphasize the critical urgency of the situation. By noon, a press release was issued and a live Facebook video was broadcast to our followers. The response was faster and greater than we hoped. Within minutes, the live video captured hundreds of views and shares, and within an hour two local news agencies had reached out for comments.
Early that same afternoon, people started filling the adoption lobby. It was an encouraging sight. Even more encouraging was the 20 cats that were adopted by 5:00pm that day.
Saturday was the busiest day we've seen in a long time. It truly was heartwarming to see the many, many people who came out to offer their love and home to a cat, or two.
Adoptions continued into the holiday week, and as of the following Friday, exactly one week after our plea began, 90 cats and kittens had been adopted! I can't tell you how amazing it is to see the community step up for the cats in the way that they did. Working in animal welfare, you see far too much of humanity's bad side. This past week has shown us that there are still a lot of good people out there.
Closing in on 100 adoptions later, there are still more cats and kittens in need of homes. Adoption fees remain waived and our community's help is still needed. The cat crisis was diminished this time, but until everyone embraces and participates in spay/neuter, TNR (trap-neuter-release) and responsible pet ownership, this will happen again. A "no-kill" shelter is not sustainable without a "no-kill" community to support it.
Spay or neuter your pets. Plead with your friends and neighbors to do the same. There is absolutely no good reason not to. Visit SpcaVetCare.org or call 803-648-6864 for information and to schedule an appointment.
Got a stray cat or two hanging around? Be a TNR hero! You could save hundreds of feline lives just by fixing one. Learn how at SpcaVetCare.org/tnr. If you live outside of Aiken City limits, contact the Aiken County Animal Shelter about their TNR program at 803-642-1537.
Found a litter of kittens? Don't rescue them! At least, not right away. Kittens, especially newborns are always better off with their mom. Sometimes a mama cat will wander away from her kittens to find food for herself. Check back in a few hours. Of course, if the kittens seem sickly or are in danger, this method does not apply. Not sure what to do? Call us at 803-648-6863.
Need to find a new home for your cat? Surrendering to an animal shelter isn't always in her best interest. It's confusing, stressful and she could be there for months until being adopted. There are better alternatives - learn about them at LetLoveLive.org/rehome.
Finally, thank you, from all of us at the SPCA Albrecht Center, to the adopters, our volunteers, the media agencies and everyone who helped spread the word and offered words of encouragement this past week. Your support makes all the difference in the world to us and to each and every cat in our care.
Sarah Neikam is the Operations Manager for the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. She is an Aiken native and has been with the Albrecht Center since 2012. Sarah's family includes three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna and Grady, who are all living happy, loved lives thanks to the efforts of the SPCA Albrecht Center.