— By BRIAN SMITH
A new program at the Weatherford Animal Shelter could provide a two-fold improvement for cats at the facility.
In an effort to combat the quickly growing numbers of feral cats in the county, Interim Shelter Director Dustin Deel and his staff have developed a Barn Cat program.
Deel said hundreds of feral cats are trapped in the community every year and need a new home.
Under the program, the shelter in conjunction with the nonprofit CatTailz, gives out the feral cats, which have been spayed and neutered but still maintain many feral cat characteristics. Between two and four cats are needed per barn, Deel said.
The cats are required to live in a cage, provided by the shelter, for the first two weeks to become acclimated. After that, the cats will have the chance to live out their feral lives and provide a valuable service at the same time by ridding barns of rodents.
The cats are free for the asking but anyone who takes part in the program must agree to provide food and water along with a safe barn to escape from predators and the weather and be willing to care for at least two weeks in the cage.
“We’ve been trying to do some more promotional things with the shelter,” Deel said. “We get a lot of feral cats, which are simply not adoptable, and this is a way for them to be able to live out their lives and provide a valuable service.”
Deel estimates that two out of every three cats brought to the shelter are feral, which hurts the shelter’s live release, or non-euthanized, rate. The shelter has room for 130 animals but can only house 18 cats.
The shelter has seen a dramatic increase in its live release rate in the best several months. In March 2013, the rate was 81 percent as opposed to 51 percent in 2012 and 50 percent in 2011.
In the six-month period between October 2012 and March 2013, the live release rate (non-euthanized) was 77 percent, as compared to 58 percent during the same time frame a year ago and 54 percent two years ago.
The number of adoptions have gone up significantly over the past year, helped by a number of specials the shelter has had. Deel said the shelter used to have between zero and two adoptions a day and now is averaging about five a day.
“When we had our $25 special over the weekend, which is still going on through Saturday, we had 11 animals adopt out last Saturday, which is just excellent,” Deel said. “Ideally, we want to see that every adoptable animal gets adopted but some of the conditions of the animals we’re receiving is not great.”
To find out more about the Barn Cat program, or the shelter itself, contact the shelter at 817-598-4111 or visit www.weatherfordtx.gov/animal.