BUCKHANNON – Local animal advocacy organizations have collaborated with the Lewis-Upshur County Animal Control Facility to help lower feline euthanasia rates in 2020 and 2021 in Upshur and Lewis counties.
LUAC director Jan Cochran said 2020 saw lower intakes because the shelter was closed for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, LUAC brought in 341 cats, adopted out 111, sent 140 to rescue and euthanized 81.
“Our stats from this year go through September and we’ve taken in 465, we’ve adopted 191, and I think the reason we managed adopt 191 cats is because we had one person sponsor 10 cats to be fixed and neutered,” Cochran said. “The county is also letting us fix or neuter two a month, and then LUV 4 Animals has been getting cats vetted, so that makes cats $15.”
“You can’t beat that: to come here and adopt a cat that’s fully vaccinated and fixed, and you don’t have to do anything for a year,” she continued.
Adoption numbers have been increasing, and LUAC has been able to send 218 cats to rescues so far this year.
“LUV [4 Animals] has found some local fosters, so they are able to line up a cat for a rescue and foster them until a space is available so they’re staying healthy because they’re not sitting here in the shelter, possibly getting depressed or they might not adapt well to a shelter environment,” Cochran said. “Sometimes, we also have new cats coming in and they may be sick, so it’s beneficial not to have too many other cats around for sickness to spread or anything like that. Claws & Whiskers [Rescue Foundation] has also been fostering some for some for the rescues.”
LUAC has euthanized 50 cats this year, and about 25 of them were feral.
“We’ve had a few owners that asked us to euthanize their cats because of their age, and they can’t afford for a vet to do it,” Cochran said. “The others were sick and were not getting any better, so we had to eliminate the sickness, so the rest of the cats didn’t get infected.”
Cochran said feline euthanasia numbers are much lower than when she first started working at LUAC.
“When I started here, we probably took in 1,000 cats and 99 percent of those cats were euthanized, so in 19 years to come down to where we are is great,” Cochran said. “It is hard for animal control to be no-kill because animal control is meant to control the population. People need a place to house animals, and to be a no-kill shelter means you have to shut off intake because you can only have so many animals, then you have more people dumping animals or animals getting hit by cars and more people shooting animals because they’re a nuisance.”
“In a perfect world, it’d be great if every shelter was no-kill, but then you would see a lot more animals on the streets, and a lot more animals being starved or just dead in my opinion,” she added.
Cat euthanasia rates have always been higher than dogs because they have more litters, Cochran noted.
“Cats have six, seven litters a year, whereas dogs only have two, and you have people who get kittens when they’re cute and cuddly, and then the kids play with them for a couple weeks and when they get older, then they get tossed out,” Cochran said.
LUV 4 Animals president Desiree Poling said the nonprofit animal rescue organization’s biggest contribution has been their persistent efforts to get felines spayed, neutered and vaccinated.
“People want to adopt healthy, vetted animals, so it’s a lot easier to get animals into homes when people can see they’re already spayed or neutered and already have their shots, and it cuts down on the cost of adoption as well,” Poling said. “A lot of our cats and dogs go to out-of-area rescues, and it’s a lot easier for those rescues to take on an animal that’s already been vetted so they don’t have those costs on their rescue; they can send them directly to a foster home and not have to worry about that, so it helps both adoption and rescue rates.
LUV 4 Animals is only able to offer these services because of their dedicated member-volunteers and the influx of generous donations from the community. Area veterinarians have also made it easier for LUV 4 Animals to continue their mission.
“We’re so grateful for our volunteers and the support we have from the community,” Poling said. “A few local vets generously give us some discounts that allow us to get more animals fixed and our cat guru, Tina, does low-cost, spay-and-neuter runs both for the pound and for county residents who want to sign up.”
“People can sign up for a very reduced rate; you can get your cat spayed or neutered down at the fixing clinic in Charleston and she piles everybody in and takes the animals down herself,” she added. “It’s a really long day and we are super appreciative of her and then she brings them all back the same night.”
LUV 4 Animals’ operational costs are covered through donations the nonprofit receives and via fundraisers, like their upcoming Halloween Adoption Event set for Saturday, Oct. 23.
“We do several events throughout the year. It’s been harder with COVID, but Oct. 23 we’re having an event at Southern States because LUAC doesn’t always get the best foot traffic, so it’s nice to get the animals out and seen,” Poling said. “There’s going to be costume contest for both pets and humans. There’s going to be vaccinations available, and there’s going to be a microchip clinic, which is always very popular because it’s a really cheap way to get your animals microchipped.”
The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Southern States at, located at 60 North Spring Street. The animal costume contest is scheduled to get underway at noon and wrap up at 1 p.m.
“We are super excited and thankful about the numbers going down as far as the rate of cat euthanasia goes because it’s not a no-kill shelter, but we’re working really hard to make it as close to that as possible, but we cannot do it without community support,” Poling said. “We’re so appreciative for the [volunteers and donations] we do have, and we would really love to have more volunteers – people to go up and just take pictures and love on the animals.”
Poling said timid animals are typically more difficult to get adopted than cats or dogs who aren’t afraid of people.
“We get some really scared animals up there and it’s really hard to get them adopted when they’re afraid to be touched,” she added. “They might get 20 minutes a day because everybody wants some time, but if we had more [volunteers] who could spend an hour with one animal, that would really make the difference for them.”
To find out more about joining LUV 4 Animals or learning how you can volunteer, visit the group’s Facebook page.