POCATELLO — The Pocatello Animal Shelter is now lodging more cats and kittens than it has kennels in which to keep them — a situation that prompted staff on Monday to suspend accepting cats surrendered by their owners.
There were 93 felines at the shelter as of Wednesday morning, according to Shelter Supervisor Chris Abbott. Abbott explained that the city’s risk of upper respiratory infection outbreaks that could lead to mass euthanasia is elevated whenever occupancy levels are high.
Abbott is hopeful that the community will take a major step toward keeping the local cat population in check, following the City Council’s Thursday night decision to hire Dr. Rena Carlson as a consultant. He explained a primary task for Carlson, who is semi-retired but still licensed as a veterinarian, will be to help find a suitable candidate to potentially be a staff veterinarian at the shelter.
Having an in-house veterinarian would allow the shelter to finally launch a planned trap, neuter, release program, through which stray cats would be captured, spayed or neutered and released back into the community. Other communities that have enacted such programs have found there’s a finite carrying capacity for stray cats, and breeding is held in check when those spaces are occupied by animals that have been fixed.
Pocatello’s plans to start its own program have been on hiatus as local veterinarians haven’t had time to pick up the extra caseload: Officials estimate 12 to 24 cats would be spayed or neutered per week and then released. Abbott said bringing in a veterinary student might also be an option.
Carlson’s yearly contract, which will renew annually, is for $5,000. She will also be responsible for “continued state and federally required licensure at the Pocatello Animal Shelter.” She will also “provide oversight for all drugs and medications used at the shelter and provide a review of current policies and practices.”
The council also approved making certain repairs at the shelter.
Abbott said the shelter is fortunate that local veterinarians are still able to spay and neuter all pets that are adopted from the facility.
Abbott plans to contact Friends of the Pocatello Animal Shelter about cooperatively planning a reduced-price cat adoption day for late October. He explained that cat occupancy is cyclical, with more animals coming in during the spring and summer when cats tend to have their litters.
He said the shelter usually has fewer cats by late fall and throughout the winter. As of Wednesday, there were also 27 dogs and seven puppies at the shelter. Abbott said it’s much easier to find other shelters and partners willing to take in dogs when canine numbers get too high at his facility.