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Potsdam Humane Society hosts giveaway to battle kitty overpopulation

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POTSDAM — The Potsdam Humane Society is urgently looking for prospective pet owners as the shelter continues to fill with more felines than it can handle.

Cats like Conan, Moo Moo, Bojangles and over 150 more prowl the shelter, which is at a loss for how to deal with the surplus.

“This is the fullest and busiest we’ve ever been,” shelter employee Bonnie Peryer said.

Those who work at the shelter refer to springtime as “kitten season,” when they receive more cats than at any other time. This year, however, kitten season didn’t end. They just kept coming.

To combat overpopulation, the shelter began offering half off the price of adopting cats at the start of the summer. The initiative was meant to last only a week or two, but kittens and strays kept coming in, and the reduced costs stayed.

Thus week the shelter took it a step further, giving cats and kittens away for free in an initiative dubbed “Feline Fiesta.”

Ms. Peryer said this giveaway has led to an increase in adoptions, but not enough to significantly reduce the shelter’s population. Feline Fiesta was supposed to last only a week, but once again it has been extended to the end of the month.

Ms. Peryer said she will be taking a vacation soon, but hopes to return to find the shelter’s efforts have been successful.

“I’m hoping to come back to everyone having been adopted and all new animals coming in,” she said.

Potsdam resident Erwin Zahler said this summer’s sale prompted he and his fiancee, Michele Rudlong, to adopt two strays from the shelter: Oliver and Felix. When they heard the shelter was giving cats away, they adopted a third and named him Zeus.

“They’re doing great. They are very well behaved,” Mr. Zahler said.

New animals are brought in as fast as space is made for them. The shelter is running at maximum capacity, and the waiting list is so full it may take six months to a year for owners looking to give up their pets to be able to give them to the society. These owners are redirected from shelter to shelter around the region, many of which are suffering from the same overpopulation problems.

At the start of 2013, the Potsdam Humane Society was caring for 45 dogs and 93 cats. It is now up to 60 and 162, respectively.

Dog adoptions will be free starting next week, although puppy adoptions still will cost money.

Normally the cost is $50 for cats, $75 for kittens, $95 for dogs, and $115 for puppies.

By giving their animals away, the shelter may be taking steps to solve one problem while exacerbating another. Each animal that comes through the doors costs the Humane Society an estimated $180 to care for, and the shelter already is operating a deficit spurred by a drop in donations.

The society is relying on these dwindling donations more than ever before, but for the moment the highest priority is bringing the number of animals down to manageable levels, even if it means giving them away, according to Humane Society Director Alicia M. Maynard.

“At least it’s helping us right now getting animals into homes,” she said.

Ms. Maynard said she wants to focus the society’s efforts on expanding education initiatives and spay/neuter programs, taking steps to help stop animal overpopulation before it starts.

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