PORT RICHEY — The area’s newest animal shelter has a helping hand for cats waiting to find permanent homes.
Tampabay Cat Alliance leaders are planning a grand opening soon for the shelter, which opened several months ago in the Sunrise Plaza shopping center, at 11720 U.S. 19.
The first Craft and Vendor Fair will raise funds for the group from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, in the parking lot outside the shelter. For information about the event call (727) 267-0215 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visitors can tour the shelter, which has enclosures housing two to three cats or kittens. Prospective adopters can sit on folding chairs to spend time to get to know cats.
The building also houses the Wow Meow consignment store, which sells cat toys, collectible knick-knacks and even tutu costumes.
While the shelter is new, the alliance actually started years ago.
In 2009 President Alison Buckley lost her home during the recession. She started the process of placing all of her rescued cats in new homes. She refused to send the cats to a shelter.
In the process, she met so many other cat lovers that she started the alliance.
Buckley thus formed the network of foster homes for felines and began efforts to spay or neuter feral cats to control overpopulation.
Since 2009, the alliance found homes for hundreds of cats, Buckley said.
The shelter was a dream that finally came true this year when the nonprofit group got the site with some 1,800 square feet, secretary Susan Ottati recalled. Sherwin-Williams donated paint for the building and many others stepped forward to help with renovations.
After hours, Buckley and Ottati let the cats roam out of their enclosures for a bit of exercise.
Visitors can meet Bianca, a Siamese cat that likes to sit in a favorite chair. Bianca was pregnant when she was abandoned in a church parking lot. “On the Fourth of July she had four babies,” Buckley said.
One of her offspring, Lincoln, enjoys batting at a spring used as a toy.
Simba is a very “energetic” cat.
Hope is a blind kitty who likes to “sing” by meowing.
“He’s snack motivated,” Buckley said about Newman.
Goldie has a white-tipped tail and white tuxedo marking on her chest.
Buddy, a black cat, cuddles with Buckley. When he was a baby, Buddy had been thrown out onto U.S. 19.
Bennie suffered from a severe upper respiratory problem when he arrived at the alliance. “Now look at him,” Buckley said about the cat who filled out and plumped up nicely after volunteers gave him some tender, loving care.
One recent cat was suffering from feline AIDS. “We were afraid to bring him in here” to the shelter, Ottati said.
Unless cats get in fight and bite each other, they can’t contract the disease. Nevertheless, alliance volunteers went to great lengths and located a sanctuary for the cat in Englewood.
The shelter is full at the moment.
“We are full because we keep the cats here until they get adopted,” Buckley explained. “We do not euthanize any cats. We don’t send them anywhere to be euthanized.”
The alliance has a screening process before taking in or adopting cats. A number of times, Alliance volunteers have to turn away pet owners who ask to leave a cat at the shelter at the last minute as a kind of afterthought before moving.
“We have it in our contract that if a cat is not working out (at an adopted home), they come back to us” to avoid a kill shelter, Buckley stressed.
The alliance developed a partnership with the Petco store in Port Richey, where the group displays some cats on weekends, Ottati noted. A Petco manager told her to write a grant application. Petco gave some products and $10,000 grant toward the shelter and vehicle.
“We’re still upgrading the shelter,” Otatti said. “We got our electric upgrade. We got a washer and dryer put in, the enclosures for the cats. And we’re thankful for that. I’ll keep writing those grants so we can continue to do what we do.”
A recent addition at the shelter is a Memory Wall for dedications by pet owners who mourn former four-legged friends.
To learn more, contact the alliance at (727) 859-2208 or email@example.com. The website is at www.tampabaycatalliance.org.