Juneau Animal Rescue Animal Control Officer Karen Wood holds up a 5-week-old kitten on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau Animal Rescue Animal Control Officer Karen Wood holds up a 5-week-old kitten on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Help needed right meow: Hoarding cases leave local animal shelter at ‘cat-pacity’

Influx of cats leaves animal shelter at ‘cat-pacity’

Correction: An earlier version of the article stated that the shelter does not euthanize animals. The shelter has and does euthanize animals in certain situations.

Juneau Animal Rescue has been hit with a massive influx of cats.

In addition to this time of year being “kitten season” when a lot of kittens are born, the center has taken in a number of adult cats from three recent cat hoarding cases.

“It’s sort of a perfect storm,” said Executive Director Samantha Blankenship.

The shelter does not generally euthanize animals but they are at capacity, or “cat-pacity,” as Blankenship phrased it. She said they have nearly 70 cats right now, far beyond the 20 to 30 cats the shelter generally has. If the shelter runs out of room and can no longer care for cats, they may put some animals down.

“If you were thinking about adopting, now’s the time. We have all ages, all sizes, all colors,” Blankenship said. “If we can adopt out a bunch of these, it makes room for the next group we need to take care of.”

One of the cats taken in was pregnant and gave birth to six kittens on Monday, July 1.

A mother cat feeds her day-old kittens at the Juneau Animal Rescue on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A mother cat feeds her day-old kittens at the Juneau Animal Rescue on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Of the three cases that brought so many cats to the shelter so quickly, one was in the Mendenhall Valley and two in the downtown area. One woman approached the shelter asking for help, while another was reported by neighbors in the same apartment complex due to poor conditions, and the third was a property owner who asked the shelter for help after a resident with cats was evicted.

The shelter received 12 cats from the first case on June 17, nine from another on June 21 (plus six kittens, born in the shelters care) and then another 11 on June 27.

“You can imagine the conditions of the homes,” Animal Control Officer Karen Wood said. “Even if people have litter boxes, with that many cats, the smell can be very powerful.”

Juneau Animal Rescue Control Officer Karen Wood plays with a couple of adult cats on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau Animal Rescue Control Officer Karen Wood plays with a couple of adult cats on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Wood said Animal Control officers were able to collect most of the cats but with the homes in the condition they were in, some of the cats were able to hide and needed to be trapped.

“They were hiding in mattresses or areas we couldn’t get to them,” Wood said. Live animal traps are baited and once the animal is trapped, Animal Control takes them to the shelter for medical treatment.

When cases like this arise, Wood said the center tries to work with those involved and get them to give up some of their animals willingly. If the person is unable to care for the animals to the point of neglect or creating a harmful environment, Animal Control can step in and try to remedy the situation. If the person is unwilling to surrender their animals, “at that point we’d talk with our city attorney to see if there’s a possible criminal case,” Wood said.

None of the three recent cases involved here rose to the level of animal cruelty or abuse, which is a crime under Alaska statute if the responsible person fails to care for the animal to the point that they cause “the death of the animal or causes severe physical pain or prolonged suffering to the animal.” That’s a misdemeanor, unless the person has prior convictions, at which point they could be charged with a felony.

An adult cat rests in a common room at the Juneau Animal Rescue on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

An adult cat rests in a common room at the Juneau Animal Rescue on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Blankenship said, generally speaking, that hoarding has been linked to mental disorders, but that it often starts off innocently.

“They start out doing it out of the kindness of their heart,” she said, but “it gets out of hand because they’re not sure how to handle all those animals.”

She said there’s no limit to the number of cats a person can own in the City and Borough of Juneau. She said she’d like to start working with the city on changing that in the near future.

“If we see 10, 12, cats in a house and none of them are fixed, that’s a recipe for disaster,” Blankenship said.

She added, “A lot of municipalities in the Lower 48 will have a limit on animals per square footage. That really helps (the animals with) living their best lives.”

Interested in adopting?

Now that the cats are at the shelter, they will be cleaned, treated for any parasites, fixed and vaccinated before being put up for adoption.

“Our goal is to provide all of those things to where when someone adopts one of the cats then they’re just ready to go into their homes,” Blankenship said.

The shelter has rooms where visitors can come and spend time with the cats, something that’s helpful even if they don’t adopt. Time with people makes the cats more sociable and better prepares them for adoption.

Adult cats are available for adoption for $85 while kittens are $150. Animals up for adoption can be seen at the shelter’s website.


• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.


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