MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County Humane Society, more commonly known as the cat shelter, has no current plans to change its policy about accepting cats or of euthanizing cats already at the shelter to make room for more.
This policy has been a bone of contention between the shelter and other factions, most especially the Board of County Commissioners who voted to eliminate the county’s yearly contribution to the shelter.
“We are going through a bit of an upheaval,” said Janice Clayton, Knox County Humane Society volunteer. “There are people who want us to start euthanizing cats. So far we’ve managed to hold them off.”
Healthy cats, and sick cats that can be healed, are taken in and cared for as long as there is room in the facility.
“[Euthanasia] is not our policy unless they are sick or test positive for feline leukemia,” Clayton said. “Illnesses we treat and there are people who think we should not. If kittens come in sick they think we should put them down and we don’t do that. If it’s fixable, we fix it.”
Last September, the Knox County Commissioners voted to suspend funding for the cat shelter until it started accepting all cats surrendered by the public. Because the shelter remains a no-kill facility, volunteers turn away cats and kittens when the facility reaches capacity.
The county leases the facility to the Knox County Humane Society for $1 a year. The agreement states, “...that a humane, public and accessible shelter for cats should be available to responsible people in Knox County. … [The Knox County Humane Society], in the interest of the welfare of cats and the quality of life of the residents of Knox County, will operate the shelter for the general benefit of cats in need and will engage in continuing programs consistent with the goals and responsibilities of Humane Societies in general and the Humane Society of the United states in particular.”
The Knox County Board of Commissioners cut out its funding for the cat shelter this year. The state of the economy was one reason but according to Commissioner Allen Stockberger, the shelter’s no-kill policy did enter into that decision.
“The first reason was budgetary considerations,” he explained. “The second reason was input from our constituents. As I recall, without rereading [the lease agreement] right now that implied — although it was not very specific — that the humane society would operate the cat shelter to accept stray and unwanted cats from the public. I see how you can read it a couple of ways. I would say it is implied, and since it is implied, we have constituents who truly believe the cat shelter is obligated to accept all cats from the public.”
Stockberger pointed out that the money given to the shelter, which he characterized as a grant, was not the only money cut out this year because of a more limited budget. Money to the Agriculture Museum and the Knox County Historical Society was also eliminated in the current budget.
“And it’s not because I am against any of these.” Stockberger explained. “But because of the economy, we don’t have the money to do this.”
While the local facility continues operation as a no-kill facility, the Richland County facility operates differently.
The Richland County Humane Society accepts every cat surrendered but requires an appointment to make sure someone is available to accept the animals.
“We take every cat people bring in but we need to make a cage available,” said facility supervisor Missy Houghton.
The facility has 100 cat cages and can handle between 150 and 200 cats. Any surrendered animals that are sick, feral, aggressive or exhibit behavioral problems are euthanized, Houghton said.
Unfortunately, the number of cats surrendered each month in Richland County can range from 200 to 700. When asked if the facility operates as “no kill” like the Knox County shelter, Houghton’s response was “unfortunately, no.”
“It just depends on how many are coming in and what we can house together,” Houghton said. “People would rather get a cat for free than come adopt one of ours so three or four times a week we put down healthy cats.”
The facility has four paid employees, 40 volunteers and foster families that take in pregnant and nursing cats.
RCHS is funded by grants, donations and fundraising. Funds, she said, for a grant administered by the city of Mansfield are dwindling but help spay or neuter stray cats and help cut the cost of the procedure for low-income families.
To adopt a cat through RCHS, a fee, which is nearly twice that as the local shelter, is accessed which includes spay/neuter, shots, feline leukemia testing, de-worming and de-fleaing and a microchip.
Neither Morrow nor Holmes counties have humane society facilities for stray cats or dogs.
Samantha Scoles, News Managing Editor, contributed to this article.