Community help needed to solve cat overflow


JASPER — For months, a sign has hung on the door of the Dubois County Humane Society declaring the facility at capacity for cats. The sign isn’t coming down any time soon.

DCHS Board President Andrea Hedinger said the kennel and the network of foster homes that support the facility are currently at capacity, with 25 — 10 in each of the two cat rooms and five in the shelter’s office — cats on site and 80 in foster homes.

The volunteers and kennel staff don’t expect a reprieve until January, as kitten season runs from March through November every year. Hedinger estimated that about 80% of the shelter’s cat population are kittens, which tend to come into the shelter in litters, which average between two and five kittens.

“It seems like it’s getting worse and worse every year,” Hedinger said.

In the past, kitten season would start to slow down by this time of year, offering shelters a reprieve in November, December and January. The last few years, Hedinger said, that’s not been the case.

Dubois County’s shelter isn’t the only one feeling the strain. Hedinger is part of several online groups for rescue workers, and she said reports of cat overflow are coming in from all over the country. An article last week in the Evansville Courier and Press said the Vanderburgh Humane Society is housing about 300 cats and may have to resort to large-scale euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals if more people don’t step forward to alleviate the numbers.

Hedinger said that won’t happen at Dubois County’s shelter, which is no-kill.

“We are very committed to no kill, so we’re not going to euthanize an animal already in our care to make room for one that needs help,” she said.

To continue to aid good samaritans looking to take care of stray kittens and cats while DCHS is full, Hedinger said the organization is offering to help people with supplies, such as food and kitty litter. There are also opportunities for people to get the cats low-cost vet care and the spay or neuter surgery through the humane society.

If you don’t want to care for cats yourself, but still want to help, Hedinger said the shelter is in need of kitty litter, dry cat food and monetary donations to help cover vet care. For each cat the shelter takes in, between $140 and $160 is spent on vet care to prepare the animal for adoption. That care includes: parasite tests and necessary treatments; the spay or neuter surgery; vaccinations; and microchipping. The shelter also covers any other vet care the animal may need to treat illnesses or injuries. Once the vet care is finished, the cats are adopted for a fee of $20 each.

“Every animal we take in is a huge monetary loss for the shelter,” Hedinger said.

People can also help by volunteering to foster cats or by helping get stray cats spayed or neutered through DCHS’s catch and release program. In that program, people catch the stray animals in their neighborhood and sign them up for one of two monthly spay/neuter transports the shelter runs. The transports happen every first and third Monday of the month and transport about 30 animals to Bloomington for spaying and neutering before returning with the animals that evening. The service provides the surgeries at lower prices ­— $35 a cat — and is available to pet owners and people helping strays. For people putting stray cats on the transport, Hedinger said, DCHS would be willing to discuss ways to share the cost.

Spaying and neutering cats is the key to alleviating the overcrowding and eventually shrinking the population without killing animals, Hedinger said. She encouraged people to have their pets spayed and neutered and to help the shelter get strays the surgery as well.

“The only way we’re going to be able to alleviate this is if we spay and neuter,” Hedinger said.

DCHS is located at 426 Wernsing Rd., Jasper, and is open noon to 6 p.m. Thursday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday for adoptions and spay/neuter sign ups. People can also seek other help caring for stray cats at those times.

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