MOUNT VERNON — The feline population in Knox County is growing exponentially and stray cats are becoming more and more of a problem. On Thursday, Knox County Dog Warden/Humane Officer Roger Reed found out first-hand just how much of a problem it is.
He said 10 stray cats from the west end of Mount Vernon were brought into the dog shelter by a community member. Shelter staff tried unsuccessfully to take them to the Knox County Humane Society cat shelter. According to Reed, staff members returned with the cats because the cat shelter is full to overflowing.
Because the animal shelter has no facilities to house cats, Reed said he was forced to euthanize the 10 cats Thursday afternoon.
Janice Clayton, volunteer cat shelter manager, is anguished about the situation. She knew what would happen if the cats were left at the dog pound.
“I didn’t have a choice today,” she said Thursday. “ I hate it. I hate it, hate it, hate it. I don’t get paid for making these life and death decisions. I didn’t want to do this.”
Clayton said the cat shelter currently houses about twice the shelter’s capacity which is 140 felines, and there are more cats, mostly kittens, being cared for in foster homes. “We’re full,” she said. “We just have no more space. When you don’t have room, you don’t have room. We are in kitten season; people didn’t get their cats spayed or neutered and now realize they can’t keep the kittens. We just can’t take them all.”
The volunteers and other workers at the cat shelter are feeling the distress as well. “The staff is stressed and overworked and putting in more hours than they should be putting in,” Clayton said, “and we don’t have money to pay them.”
Due to the lack of space and limited funds, the cat shelter does request a surrender fee from those dropping off unwanted animals.