For Vanessa Heenan, executive director of the Boone Area Humane Society, these are difficult days.
“It’s controlled chaos,” she said. “There is no downtime in animal welfare.”
That’s because the shelter has seen an increase in cat hoarding cases across Boone County and many of these animals are testing positive for feline leukemia.
“We’re seeing more feline leukemia now then we ever have in the past, and I believe it’s due to these hoarding situations,” she said.
FeLV is spread among cats through saliva, blood, nasal secretions, urine or feces. It is also transmitted through bite wounds, deep scratches, sharing food or water bowls, using the same litter box or mutual grooming. It can also be passed on to kittens in the womb and through nursing, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. If an animal’s immune system cannot defeat the virus, it can end up shortening its lifespan.
Heenan said the cats that are brought in often cannot be returned to their previous living environment due to unhealthy conditions and testing positive for diseases. And cats that aren’t socialized may not be adoptable.
“I can’t put them on a farm, because of their illness” she said. “But they’re not adoptable, so we’re dealing with trying to tame them down to where they would be adoptable. It just makes it really rough. “
Hoarding an issue throughout the county
Hoarding cases have been occurring in Boone, Madrid and rural parts of the county.
“That is what’s taking up more of our time and space right now,” she added.
Pair these hoarding cases with the influx (and soon to be a surge) in kittens being born, and the BAHS is strapped for manpower and funds.
“We’re losing money,” Heenan said.
Those interested in purchasing kitten formula, wet food and feeding nipples can view items the shelter has selected via its Amazon wish list at https://bahs.us/wish-list.
Cat hoarding occurs inside homes and outdoors, and Heenan said the organization learns of these cases through law enforcement and by word of mouth. She said the shelter recently took in cats from a house in Boone that was condemned and is set for demolition.
“If you see 10 cats outside your home, that’s not normal – it means somebody is feeding them,” she said.
Although the City of Boone allows community cats, Heenan warns pet owners against allowing their cats to roam freely outdoors, as they could come in contact with an infected cat. It can take several weeks for an animal to test positive for feline leukemia after exposure.
As well, most vaccinations for cats are only aimed at preventing rabies and distemper and will not safeguard against ringworm, parasites or other viruses.
Heenan said cats that test positive for female leukemia (that have been socialized and thus adoptable), can make good pets.
“There is no crystal ball for each individual cat,” she said. “Some of them can live to be 14, 15 years old, after being diagnosed very young, but the studies show if they test positive, they usually succumb to their illnesses within three years. “
The shelter has taken socialized FeLV-positive cats and put non-socialized ones in a rolling kennel with them. Heenan said these interactions are helping the non-socialized respond better to people.
These cats should also only share living quarters with other FeLV-positive cats. The disease is not transmittable to humans or other animals.
There are concerns with dogs as well
While the shelter is dealing with a larger number of cats coming into the shelter than dogs, staff members still deal with a high call volume of dog-related concerns. They receive complaints about dogs at large and reports of pet owners not picking up after their canines.
“We’re here to enforce the ordinances. Knowing what your responsibilities are is a big part of being a pet owner, ”Heenan said.
Dogs at large can pose risks of dog fighting, bites and spreading diseases.
While the BAHS has the authority to issue citations, the police department typically does that instead. Also more stray dogs are coming into the shelter without ID tags and are not spayed or neutered.
Fosters and volunteers needed
The shelter is seeking foster homes for animals – both for short-term and long term periods.
“Unicorn fosters” are homes where there are no other animals, making them a rare find. But people with pets can be fosters. Putting animals in foster homes frees up space in the shelter, Heenan said,
Volunteers of all skill sets and schedules are also needed.
The shelter is still only open by appointment. Select an animal online you would like to meet in person, and the shelter will schedule a time for your visit.
To learn more, go to: https://bahs.us/. The BAHS is located at 228 W. 16th St., Boone and may be reached at 515-432-6112 and [email protected]