Wake County animal shelters brace for explosion of kittens

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- After several weeks of stay-at-home orders, scaling back services, and implementing social-distancing practices such as adoptions by appointments-only for animals, two of the biggest animal shelters in Wake County say they have experienced some positive and negative effects of the pandemic.

"We have had steady adoptions going on and it's wonderful because people right now have the time to bond with a new pet," explained Dr. Jennifer Federico, Wake County Animal Services Director.

"And, because you have to make an appointment, people who want to owner-surrender their pets, make an appointment to bring them in, and we've been seeing people cancel those appointments and end up keeping their pets, which has been a nice surprise in all this," Federico added.

The SPCA of Wake County said the appointment method has been a positive for its facility as well.

"Now that we're a couple months into it, we're looking back and going, 'we can actually save more lives the way we're doing it right now,'" Darci Vanderslik of the SPCA said. "We're able to bring in more people and with the scheduling and virtual appointments beforehand we can adopt pets out faster."

Both facilities said that with so many people staying home and out of school, the number of families willing to foster a pet before it is adopted into a forever home is also up. Wake County Animal Services said its shelter has been able to maintain its population and not run out of space, which was a goal when the pandemic hit.

However, with low-cost and free spay-and-neuter clinics forced to shut down during the crisis, the shelter is bracing for the overpopulation of kittens.

"We're predicting it's going to be worse because all the spay-neuter services stopped," Federico explained. "There hasn't been that overpopulation control, so, we're expecting an uptick of kittens."

Federico said foster families are needed for all animals especially the kittens coming in. The shelter is also in need of supplies and has started an Amazon Wishlist. Federico said wet cat food and soft dog treats are the most-needed items right now.

In the meantime, money is also needed for the SPCA of Wake County as well as other Wake County animal nonprofits including SafeHaven and Saving Grace NC as important spring fundraisers had to be canceled amid COVID-19.

The SPCA of Wake County has started a fund in response to COVID-19 to continue providing services and resources for families to care for their pets especially amid the financial uncertainty and rising unemployment.

"We do have an emergency care fund on our home page," Vanderslik said. "Right now, that money is being put to use right away as the pets are coming in and we start to open up the intake more, we need those funds to continue doing what we do. We're in the business of saving lives."
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