Animal shelters relying on satellite adoptions (9/3/09)

Sept. 3, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Amongst the din of the home and garden equipment, registers and customer questions at the Essex Agway in Williston on Tuesday afternoon came a different sound — a low purr. Playing with a ball of string and playfully pawing for an Agway customer, a 10-week-old black and gray kitten named Honeydew purred from inside a kennel cage in the front of the store.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Honeydew, a 10-week-old kitten, relaxes in her pen at the Essex Agway in Williston. Agway serves as a satellite adoption center for the Franklin County Humane Society.

“Oh, we can adopt her,” the older customer said to her husband, waiting near the store’s registers.

The man smiled and laughed.

“We’ll see,” he said, paying for their purchase.

While Honeydew and her three siblings — Cantaloupe, Squash and Watermelon — might have to wait a little bit longer for a new home, it probably won’t be much more than a few days.

Since January, the Essex Agway, located on Vermont 2A, has been a satellite shelter for the Franklin County Humane Society. In all, 17 cats have been adopted out of Agway since January.

The St. Albans-based Franklin County Humane Society also has kennel cages at PetSmart in Taft Corners. On Tuesday, 10 cats and kittens from the Franklin County Humane Society and Central Vermont Humane Society peered out from their temporary homes as customers shuffled past, smiling and waving.

PetSmart manager Eloy Lebeau said the cats are adopted on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis. He estimated about 300 cats have been adopted out of the Williston store in 12 years.

“They go off pretty quickly,” Lebeau said. “We don’t keep them very long.”

And it’s not only PetSmart customers that end up adopting the furry friends.

“I have several employees that have taken home cats, lots of them,” Lebeau said; he’s brought a cat home to his family as well.

The satellite adoption centers are becoming more important for humane societies outside Chittenden County. In the past year, cat populations have increased in Vermont and it’s been difficult finding homes for all the abandoned cats and kittens, said Vaunne Alden, shelter manager for the North Country Animal League in Morrisville.

“The economy is not wonderful and people aren’t spending more to spay or neuter their cats,” Alden said. “The populations can really snowball on you.”

Coupled with that is the slide in donations that humane societies are experiencing with the down economy. Alden said she had cats available at PetSmart until a few months ago, but transporting the animals and the costs of the maintaining their kennels became too expensive.

Instead, Alden said the North Country Animal League participates in PetSmart’s adopt-a-thons, which generally happen on weekends. The next adopt-a-thon will take place Sept. 11 through Sept. 13. PetSmart donates an extra $25 per animal adopted to the humane societies that take part, Lebeau said.

Alden said she hopes to bring up to six cats and kittens, and maybe a few puppies, to next weekend’s event. At previous adopt-a-thons, Alden said she’s returned to Morrisville with all animals adopted.

“We have such amazingly good luck there,” Alden said.

The satellite shelters have also been important for the Barre-based Central Vermont Humane Society. The center’s adoption specialist, Jamie Wirasnik, said the adoptions taking place in Williston have a trickle down effect for her humane society.

“It gets our name out there to other communities,” Wirasnik said. “I don’t think a lot of people in (the Champlain Valley) are aware of our society.”

While maintaining kennels at PetSmart isn’t cheap, Central Vermont Humane Society has been able to make it work. And cats and kittens have been able to find many new homes.

“In the past few weeks, we’ve thankfully had a lot of kitten adoptions,” said Wirasnik, adding that she expects adoptions to increase into the fall and winter.

Wirasnik also said the Central Vermont Humane Society will have animals to adopt at next weekend’s PetSmart adoption event.

Adopting at satellite centers is a quick process. At the Essex Agway and PetSmart, customers fill out an adoption application, which is then faxed to the appropriate humane society. After the humane society checks out the application, the potential adopter is called and discusses the care that must be taken when bringing a new animal into a home.

Once the adoption fee is paid, the cat is the customer’s to bring home. Fees generally range from $100 to $150 for kittens and under $100 for cats. The cost includes spaying or neutering and other supplies.

Back at the Essex Agway, Honeydew was again showing off for the customers, jumping around her large kennel from platform to platform. Her gymnastics gained another small crowd in the store for the four kittens anxiously awaiting a new family.