Overrun with cats

Shelters filled to rafters with abandoned pets

By Heather J. Carlson

It is something Dona Fisher has come to dread — a box by the front door of Safe Haven Pet Rescue.

She knows that the box likely contains at least one abandoned cat. It is a problem she and other shelters are dealing with far more often — people dumping their animals. The increase in abandoned animals comes as the pet shelter already is overrun with cats and is struggling financially to survive.


"We’re to the point where we can’t handle any more, or we’re going to go under," said Fisher, one of the shelter’s co-founders.

Local shelter workers agree that they have seen a rise in the number of animals being surrendered or abandoned. As the number of home foreclosures has gone up and living costs have risen, more people are giving up their pets, said Kim Radke, shelter manager for Paws and Claws Humane Society.

"I think it’s the economy, and I think that people are just having a hard time right now," she said.

The boom in homeless animals has left little to no room in area shelters. Paws and Claws has turned away an average of 20 people per day wanting to surrender their animals because the shelter has no room, Radke said. It generally can hold up to 70 cats and 45 dogs.

But while the need might be growing, the available shelter space is shrinking. Whitey’s cat shelter in Rochester is closing due to financial problems. Meanwhile, Safe Haven Pet Rescue is in dire need of volunteers and donations. Without that help, Fisher said the 10-year-old shelter might have to shut down. The shelter is already is above capacity, with 100 cats.

Rochester’s Animal Control also has seen a steady increase in the number of abandoned pets, said Sgt. John Laivell, who oversees the animal control division. Part of the increase likely stems from the city’s growth. But Laivell said it might also be a case of more irresponsible pet owners.

"Personally, I believe there are a lot more people that seem to look at their animals like an old car. Once it breaks down, they are just going to dump it alongside the road."

The Animal Control shelter can house up to 40 dogs and 30 cats. So far, the city-run facility has not had to euthanize any healthy animals — only animals that are considered dangerous or seriously ill. But that could change, if Safe Haven Pet Rescue closes along with Whitey’s.


"If it was at the point where there were no other shelters available to handle cats, we would probably give a cat seven days for viewing to the public, and after seven days, I think I would be forced to begin euthanization simply to keep up space," he said. "I don’t know what else we would do."

For more information, go to

Rochester Animal Control

Safe Haven Pet Rescue

Paws and Claws Humane Society

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