Advocate Florida parishes bureau
Published: Aug 11, 2010 – Page: 1B
DENHAM SPRINGS — Amid kennel dogs’ raucous barking, 26 quiet cats departed the Denham Springs Animal Shelter on Tuesday on an 18-hour trip to Virginia.
Three-legged Marshall left on the“>The Advocate/TRAVIS SPRADLING
1,100-mile trip. So did “sweet” Brandi, who suffers from hair loss.
Playful Bubbles, who always dumps her food bowl and chases the round bits around the floor before eating them, also got a ride to Norfolk.
As the morning began, the shelter held 215 cats and 180 dogs. A maximum comfortable number would be about 100 cats and 75 dogs, said Vicki Sibley, the director of the non-kill facility.
Maurice Durbin, who volunteers at the facility, said she is pleased that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals took some of the cats to Virginia, where the weather is cooler and the organization has an animal clinic.
Most of the felines taken Tuesday have either been at the shelter for a long time or have health problems, Durbin said.
The number of animals being brought to the Denham Springs shelter this summer has increased dramatically, she said.
The increase may have something to do with the poor state of the economy, Durbin said.
For a time Tuesday morning, the inside of the shelter seemed overrun with kitties as workers selected the ones that needed to go into carrying cages.
Outside, the dogs loudly noted the change in routine.
Slowly, the inside chaos settled down as PETA representatives slipped pairs of cats into carrying cages, and a shipping company donating its transport services loaded them into a huge van.
Outside, the dogs barked louder as cats in cages were paraded in front of them.
PETA was taking the cats to a shelter at its Virginia headquarters, where it already had foster homes lined up for almost all of the Denham Springs contingent, said Teresa Chagrin, an animal care specialist for the organization.
The rest of the cats scheduled to arrive in Virginia this morning will be housed in a large quarantine room with tile floors, cat trees and classical music, she said.
Some of the cats taken away have been living at the Denham Springs shelter for several years, Chagrin said.
“The longer an animal stays at a shelter, the less adoptable it becomes,” she said. “Shelters are not designed for long-term care.”
Some of the cats in the shelter have developed stress-related problems that result in shedding, Chagrin said.
“People don’t come in to adopt a cat with hair loss,” she said.
Nelson, one of the cats being taken to Virginia, previously had a hair-loss problem, but that was taken care of with a special diet, shelter staffer Heather Dunaway said.
But Nelson, who had been raised from a kitten at the shelter, “freaked out when he got to people’s homes” after they adopted him, Dunaway said.
Finally, Nelson got over that problem in the hands of a caring couple. Unfortunately, other circumstances resulted in the couple having to return him to the shelter only months after his adoption, Dunaway said.
Nelson was one of the cats loaded into the departing van Tuesday.
Dean Jutilla of uShip said the online firm does a lot of charity work with its 40-foot vehicle designated for that purpose, but he added that moving cats “is something a little different for us.”
Matt Chasen, CEO of uShip, was on hand for the transportation of the animals Tuesday.
Chasen said he wanted to do something to help the Gulf Coast after the BP oil leak emergency and learned from PETA about the overcrowding situation at the Denham Springs shelter.
Sibley said the shelter accepts animals only from Denham Springs, but the facility has still become “extremely overcrowded.”
Shortly after the van left with the cats en route to Virginia, the shelter took in 12 more kittens and two more grown cats