Pasco Animal Services wants to 'Empty the Shelter'
LAND O' LAKES -
Two months after he was rescued from a garbage can, “Ollie” the kitten is almost ready to be adopted.
Judy Tate-Gregory, education coordinator for Pasco County Animal Services, has fostered the kitten since he was barely a week old. She bottle-fed and nursed him through a case of conjunctivitis.
“He's a spitfire,” Gregory said. “He likes my two dogs a lot. Sometimes I think he thinks he's a dog because he hasn't really been around other cats.”
When he was brought to Animal Services, Ollie could fit in the palm of her hand. He needs to gain 2 ounces before he's big enough to be neutered and adopted. Gregory said she has grown attached to the kitten, but her ultimate goal is to see him adopted.
“I have (grown attached), but I've fostered animals before,” Gregory said. “You have to go into it with the mindset that you know it's going to be temporary.”
The fostering program is one of several new initiatives launched this spring by Animal Services as the agency struggles to deal with Pasco County's pet overpopulation problem.
Since it adopted no-kill policies in an effort to save 90 percent of animals it takes in, the shelter has stopped accepting feral cats and accepts owner-surrendered dogs only twice a week. But it's still over capacity.
“You always have more animals than you have homes,” Gregory said.
Assistant County Administrator Suzanne Salichs said the shelter had more than a 190 animals — mostly dogs — on Thursday. So on Saturday, it will stay open late and offer free adoptions for its second “Empty the Shelter” event. The first was in December.
All the pets will be neutered, vaccinated and implanted with microchips. The only cost will be the $10 license fee for dogs. “Our regular adoption fees are $70 for dogs and $40 for cats,” Gregory said. “We had 79 adoptions in December. We want to get 80 this weekend.”
The county also is expanding its pet foster program, the one that saved Ollie. It used to be limited to county employees, but now any Pasco County resident who applies and completes the training can foster shelter animals.
“It's a good option for dogs that haven't been adopted because they might need behavioral training or maybe because they're heartworm positive,” Gregory said. “Or it could be a kitten, like Ollie, that needs to be bottle-fed.”
In addition, Salichs said the department will convert a former Pasco County Public Transportation bus into a mobile adoption center and has started accepting credit card payments, all in an effort to increase the number of adoptions.