The Labor Day rescue of cats from an Augusta home has cat lovers stepping to the fore in the absence of action by county authorities.
Shirley’s Angels Animal Rescue has taken 15 cats to get treatment and find new homes after a visit they made along with Animal Control on Sept. 3 to a house near Augusta that had about 80 cats in and around it.
But a couple of important reasons kept Animal Control on the sidelines.
First, the animal shelter that opened last year on Dolan Drive in Augusta is only for dogs. Cats that are taken there are immediately euthanized.
“We don’t like to do that,” Animal Control Director Col. David Gee said, “but we don’t have a place to keep them.”
Second, no county ordinance limits the number of cats (or dogs) an owner can have.
“If I want 3 dogs, I want 3 dogs,” County Commission President Bob Hott said.
Moreover, the county doesn’t have a spay or neuter rule in place either. Hott noted that no health violation has been cited at the residence.
“Cats are a dilemma in this county,” Col. Gee said last week. “People feed them in the winter because they feel sorry for them, then call and want us to pick them up.”
When the animal shelter was on Gee’s farm, he took in cats and they stayed in the barn.
However, he noted, that in the years between 2012 and 2018, the shelter took in between 750 and 800 cats, but was only able to adopt out 16.
When the new shelter was built, it was only designed for dogs. County Clerk Eric Strite noted that none of the counties around Hampshire take cats either.
That puts the burden on groups like Shirley’s Angels, Furry Friends Needing Homes, Dakota’s Dream or Dawn’s Cat Sanctuary in Fort Ashby.
Shirley’s Angels placed 5 of the rescued kittens with Furry Friends and said over the weekend the rest are at Lost River Animal Clinic in Baker, all of which will need fostering.
“Until we can find somewhere for the ones we have now we have to hold off removing more from the house,” said Michell Taylor of Shirley’s Angels.
Her group will have cats at Tractor Supply in Romney from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday for adoption.
Shirley’s Angels is seeking donations of supplies like old towels, cat carriers, cat beds, litter boxes and litter, Clorox wipes, bleach and laundry detergent.
Donated items can be dropped off at Bank of Romney locations in Romney, Sunrise, Augusta and Capon Bridge, an effort organized by Chris Marshall of Capon Bridge.
“This effort will require considerable resources of both money and supplies and they need your help,” she said in flyers she’s distributing.
Funds can also be sent directly to Lost River Animal Clinic for the “Augusta colony.” Lost River is spaying and neutring the cats brought in.
Taylor said all the “friendly” cats have been taken from the Augusta property. Now trapping will begin to capture feral cats and take them for spaying and neutering.
Col. Gee was critical of cats that are allowed to roam uncontrolled. They should be euthanized, he said, “because all they’re doing is reproducing.”
Hott said he didn’t see the county changing its rules on cats, in part because state law doesn’t address the issue.
He said the key to pet ownership isn’t with rules.
“The answer is being responsible,” he said, “but how do you make them responsible?”
He said Col. Gee “does as well as he can with his feral cats.”
Taylor of Shirley’s Angels said Animal Control was great to work with.
“There aren’t a lot of options for cats here,” she said, “and they don’t want to have euthanize.”