It's raining cats and dogs at city shelter

Posted: July 23, 2013

Four tiny, fluffy heads perked up in an oversized cardboard box, glancing around with wide eyes as people lined up to surrender them and other stray cats and dogs to the animal shelter.

The kittens - one tan, one orange, two black-and-white - carried in by Sheena Ragin, 28, were among 134 animals that arrived at the Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT) of Philadelphia facility Saturday, 92 of which were cats.

It's "kitten season," the annual, sudden surge of animals caused by mating feral cat colonies - whose numbers, by some estimates, exceed 350,000. Fewer stray, unspayed, or unneutered dogs keep canine numbers fairly constant.

"Dogs and cats are coming in every single day, they don't stop," said executive director Susan Cosby. "There's no break, and there's no stopping the work to get them out alive."

Ragin's story is typical. She found the kittens Friday morning on her apartment porch in North Philadelphia and brought them to the shelter, hoping to give them a shot at a better life.

"I was like, 'Oh my God! Babies!' " Ragin said, breaking into a wide smile as she reached down to stroke one. "They're so adorable, I don't want them to get run over or be out in the rain."

Precious, Adorable, Honey, and Sweets - named by the agency - received a checkup, deworming, and vaccinations before they were transferred to another shelter.

Not every animal at the shelter gets that chance, especially in the summer, when the shelter almost always fills to capacity. Hundreds of animals have to be put down.

Nearly 425 stray or neighborhood cats and 120 stray dogs were brought to the shelter the week before July 4. Owners surrendered 116 dogs and 136 cats.

Of the cats and dogs that came in that week, 273 were euthanized because there simply was not enough space for them.

Other shelters - such as the smaller Delaware County SPCA, which handles a limited number because it is a "no-kill" facility - help with the overload. Delaware County took 20 cats and 20 dogs from ACCT at the beginning of July.

"We take in as many as our shelter can essentially hold," said Justina Calgiano, director of community relations for the Delaware County SPCA. "We all know of their desperate need."

Cosby is waiting for the day the city Vector Control Office relocates and the entire building will be open for animal housing, hopefully within a year. In the meantime, closets have been converted into spaces for the surplus felines.

To help with the overflow, stray cats that look healthy probably are someone's pet and might be better off finding their way home on their own, Cosby said. Sick or injured cats and dogs should be taken to a shelter, but first call ACCT at 267-385-3800 for proper handling tips.


Contact Summer Ballentine at 215-854-2771 or at SBallentine@philly.com. Follow her on Twitter @esballentine.

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