By Erich Wagner (Photo/Erich Wagner)
For a while this summer, there wasn’t room to swing a cat at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.
A sharp increase in pet surrenders combined with a slow adoption season, leaving the Eisenhower Avenue shelter awash in felines. The situation prompted officials to reduce prices for cat adoptions.
And thankfully, the measure worked before the shelter reached capacity, said spokesman Patrick Cole.
The promotion — which ran from August 10 through Sunday — placed 22 cats in new homes. That’s up from 13 feline adoptions over the same period last year.
Cole said the waning weeks of summer are tough for animal shelters because of low adoption rates and an uptick in surrenders.
“Traditionally August is a slow month for adoptions,” Cole said. “People are on vacation, or they’re getting ready to go back to school. Now is not the best time for a lot of people to be getting a pet.”
While late spring is typically thought of as the peak period for cats coming into shelters, Cole said summer’s end poses just as much of a challenge. In spring, much of the organization’s intake — cat-wise — comes from kittens, stray or otherwise. In August, the shelter’s staff sees more people surrendering felines that they either cannot care for or no longer want.
“It’s sad. A lot of people will prefer to surrender a pet when they go on vacation, rather than finding a sitter or a boarding facility,” Cole said.
“During the summer, kids are out of school, and you know, it’s kind of a change in lifestyle.
“[And] I suspect that with the baby booms in the spring, people adopt kittens — and this is also true of puppies — and they’re small animals and very cute. But then after a couple months of growing, they get to be a handful and not what maybe they expected, and maybe they got in over their heads.”
Cole called the shelter’s end-of-summer promotion a preventative measure taken to ensure the organization wouldn’t have to turn any animals away.
“[We] got 22 cats into homes in about a week, and that definitely helped us, and we were able to move new cats up for adoption,” he said. “We’re continuing to take in cats, but if we didn’t see a big spike [in adoptions], we would have reached capacity.”
The shelter likely will offer another promotion for animal adoptions in the next month or two, although Cole said he didn’t have any details yet about possible discounts or specific dates.
“We try to do a promotion every two to three months,” he said. “Just something that continues to raise awareness and encourages people to adopt cats from the shelter, as opposed to acquiring them from a breeder or other means.”