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Rock County Humane Society opens satellite pet adoption center

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Neil Johnson
August 17, 2013

JANESVILLE--Selma the cat did her best to attract attention from the window of the Rock County Humane Society's satellite adoption center at Janesville Petco on Saturday.

Atop the catwalk of a carpeted pet tower, the petite 3-year-old orange tabby pawed at the glass and nuzzled the window with her nose, which was stained pink from her water bowl, which had a dyed cat toy floating in it.

A woman shopping at Petco noticed Selma and walked into the small room, which on Saturday housed six cats from the group's South Arch Street shelter. She began to pet the tabby.

Rock County Humane Society Executive Director Brett Frazier smiled. It was noon on opening day of the humane society's new satellite pet adoption center at Petco, and the humane society already had adopted out two kittens. 

“It's been great. You see a good flow of weekend Petco customers walking by, and they're getting hit with the Rock County Humane Society. This visibility doesn't happen at our shelter location,” Frazier said.

The humane society opened the shelter in large part to boost adoptions of cats and thin the cat population at the shelter. The shelter currently is housing about 30 cats—and has seen 774 cats have come through the shelter this year, compared to 351 dogs, according to shelter records.

The shelter retains more cats because it has a much slower turnaround time for cat adoption compared to dogs. On average, Frazier said, it takes 48 days to adopt out a cat at the shelter. Dogs take an average of 19 days, he said.

“48 days is way too long for a beautiful cat to spend sitting in an enclosure in our shelters,” Frazier said. “If we can get the cat time cut down to 30 percent, you can't imagine how much more time, space and ability we'd have to help all the animals at our shelter,” Frazier said.

While numbers for cats are higher than dogs, things are better at the shelter than they once were. Within the last decade, during the height of the recession, there were times when the humane society had as many as 400 cats at its Arch Street shelter, according to agency records.

At the time, there were no hard limits to how many cats the agency would take in. Frazier, who took the helm of the humane society in May, said he has heard horror stories about overcrowding.

“In the early 2000s, there were times where if you'd gone to the bathrooms and the offices, there were cats there. Cages were on top of cages. That was one way of operating. You take every animal, and put it in a cage, and hold it as long as you can and just hope something good happens,” Frazier.

The humane society no longer operates that way. Total numbers of animals at the shelter have been cut almost in half since 2008, when the shelter took in 4,000 animals. This year, the shelter is on pace to take in about 1,900 animals; about 1,300 will be cats, based on agency figures.

Policies developed during the tenure of Angela Rhodes, the former director of the humane society, limited the number of animals the shelter would take. Measures put in place include the shelter no longer taking “owned” dogs.

Those animals, when they're turned over or seized by local authorities, are now taken to Dane County Humane Society under an agreement with the city of Janesville.

Frazier would not say whether the shelter still has a firm cap on how many cats it will keep at its shelter, but he indicated the shelter will no longer take an unlimited number cats with no questions asked.

“If we take every animal and we don't take any qualifying questions, we'll be right back up to 400 cats. We don't have enough space for 400 cats. We barely have enough space for 200,” he said.

That's part of the reason why the shelter opened its pet adoption center at Petco. Cats will stay there until they're adopted, and then new cats—both adults and kittens will be brought in, Frazier said.

That will free up space at the shelter for all animals there, Frazier said.

When Frazer, a Milton resident and the mayor of Milton, took the helm of the humane society this year, he said he planned to mend fences with Janesville and other stakeholders.

Part of that work, he said, is reaching out to the public on services the humane society is working to offer. Frazier said the agency is planning programs that could help pet owners struggling financially to afford veterinary and food costs so their pets don't end up at the shelter.

“We recognize the cost of food and vet care for low-income families—and there are many of them in Rock County—is a serious obstacle for them to keep pets. But once an animal and dog or cat is in a safe and loving home, we want to do what we can to keep them there.”

We want to be a place that helps animals get adopted in homes—but also a place that helps people to keep animals in their homes,” Frazier said.



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