BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Brevard County plans to export 50 kittens to an animal rescue organization in Maryland as part of an effort to reduce the number of unadopted animals that are euthanized.
And, in a separate effort, the SPCA of Brevard is extending its lease at Melbourne Square mall, after finding early success adopting out cats there.
Debbie Rich, a Melbourne advocate of animal rescues, said both efforts will reduce cat overpopulation in Brevard.
"A cat saved is a cat saved," Rich said, while adding that increased promotion of spaying and neutering also will reduce the numbers of cats and dogs killed at the county's shelters.
A caravan of kittens now housed at Brevard County Animal Services and Enforcement's shelters in Melbourne and Titusville will be headed this weekend to the Last Chance Animal Rescue in Waldorf, Md.
They will be joined on the trip by 50 kittens from the Miami-Dade County Animal Services Department.
Brevard Animal Services and Enforcement Director Karla Torpy said there typically is a shortage of kittens for adoption in cooler-weather states such as Maryland during the winter, because cats are more likely to remain indoors and are less likely to breed.
Brevard has more cats than it can find homes for. Torpy's agency this year had to euthanize about 63 percent of the cats that entered its shelters.
"There's just too many," Torpy said.
Mary Thompson, an animal care technician at the county's South Animal Care Center in Melbourne, is coordinating the kitten caravan for the county agency.
She said each kitten is tested and vaccinated, and must meet various health requirements before being transported. Veterinarians from Aloha Pet &Bird Hospital in Indian Harbour Beach are assisting in the effort, and the Brevard Aiding Shelter Animals Project raised money to pay for the gas for the trip.
Last Chance Animal Rescue works with major pet-store chains to place the kittens in homes through in-store adoptions.
"We know they will get adopted," Torpy said. "It's about finding homes for animals that otherwise would have been euthanized."
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Brevard is trying a different approach. With the financial backing of donors Rick and Lisa Lewis of Lansing Island, the SPCA on the day after Thanksgiving opened a cat adoption center at Melbourne Square mall. During its first 1½ weeks of operation, the center was able to adopt out 64 cats, according to SPCA of Brevard Executive Director Patrick Fox.
"That is remarkable. To do 64 in a week-and-a-half is unbelievable," Fox said, noting that it's roughly 10 times the rate of cat adoptions from the SPCA's shelter in Titusville.
The cats at the Melbourne Square storefront come from both the SPCA's "no-kill" shelter in Titusville and the county's shelters in Melbourne and Titusville.
Fox said the SPCA, with financial help from the Lewises, is going to extend the lease at Melbourne Square into 2014.
Torpy said she has a long-term goal of having a more visible county-operated center for pet adoption, especially in Titusville, but funding remains the obstacle.
"We would love to do something like that," Torpy said.