For the most part, cacophony reigns supreme at SCRAPS.
It’s rare that dogs aren’t barking. Walk through the doors of Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service’s aging headquarters at 2521 N. Flora Road, and the loud woofs, ruffs and howls that greet unsuspecting visitors will have even factory workers reaching for the Tylenol – or at least sticking their fingers in their otherwise unprotected ears.
While most of SCRAPS is noisier than a Motorhead concert, relief can be had. Step inside the Cat Room, shut the door, and the sounds of the canine contingent are muffled enough for you to hear the curious soft meows from within. Take a walk around, you’ll meet Xena, a luxurious longhair who was picked up in the 2400 block of North Bates. Or perhaps Buddy, a short-haired black-and-white male, is more your speed.
Doesn’t matter. They all need homes. Yours will do, if you have the inclination, the willingness to accept the inevitable chaos a cat brings along with the purrs and chin rubs, along with lots and lots of patience.
It was here, last September, where my wife and I found a pair of 6-week-old sisters who regarded us with mild eyes as we perused the denizens of the Cat Room. That encounter was recounted in a column last fall, where I described the painful loss of our 13-year-old gray tabby Gabby – also a shelter cat – and the search to bring some new family members in our home.
Now 7 months old, Tindi and Tigra have settled in, explored every inch of our home – including an unauthorized excursion into the garage – and continue to thrill us with unexpected requests for belly rubs along with the occasional knocking over of vases of flowers.
They chatter at birds outside enjoying the feeder and jump on our heads at 3:30 in the morning. The unexpected hyperactivity makes it kind of like living with a pair of 9-pound methamphetamine addicts, only with healthier teeth.
While our house wouldn’t be the same without the little monsters, it seems many don’t share our enthusiasm for cats. A couple of weeks back, no less than two dozen were dropped off at SCRAPS in one day. When such things happen – and they do all too often – it’s not unusual for adoption specials to be advertised. Most, if not all, of the cats – after being spayed/neutered and vet-checked – then find new, more accepting homes.
The problem, however, is one of numbers. Last year, SCRAPS took n 5,582 animals. Dogs are often reclaimed by their owners before attempting to adopt them out, but only 3 percent are coming in for their lost cats.
“Cat owners aren’t coming in soon enough,” said Nancy Hill, director of SCRAPS.
In order to get more cats adopted out, SCRAPS launched Year of the Cat last week with the help of Spokane County Commissioners Todd Mielke and Mark Richard. The goal is to have a 75-percent live release rate – adoption, transfer to another adoption facility or return to owner – for all cats in 2012. The current rat is around 65 percent.
“We do pretty well,” Mielke said, adding that the average for a municipal shelter is more along the lines of 30 percent.
In order to make that 10 percent increase, Richard said the shelter will be lowering the adoption fee this year from $63 – which includes a spay/neuter voucher, microchip, vaccines and free health check by a veterinarian along with a license – to $40.
For that price, those looking for some feline companionship can double-up. The cost to adopt our cats was $126 – the best money we ever spent, according to my wife. And Richard himself admits the cats he’s taken in from SCRAPS have had the best personalities of all he’s ever shared a home with.
Why the disparity between dogs – who are returned to their owners 50 percent of the time – and cats? It’s tough to say. Cats multiply rapidly – within two years an unaltered female and her offspring can produce 750 cats – and many believe that since they are so independent they will fend for themselves if abandoned.
Unfortunately – while not as eager to please humans as the average dog – like most domesticated animals, cats need us. Still, animal ownership is a big responsibility: Just one day after the Year of the Cat press briefing, held in the calm confines of the Cat Room, SCRAPS was responsible for taking in over 90 animals from property in north Spokane County that had been neglected. Most were emaciated, and others found weren’t even that lucky.
Of course, SCRAPS may be better served if the agency were just a bit more visible. The Flora Road site is 40 years old, cramped, and the shelter needs about 37,000 more square feet and, preferably, be somewhere where volunteers can reach SCRAPS by bus.
Unfortunately, voters turned down a relatively inexpensive levy request last fall that would have paid for a remodeled site near the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. Now, the former Harley-Davidson dealership at 6815 E. Trent is being eyed for a potential new headquarters as the need for a new building still exists.
Mielke believes that the county, city of Spokane Valley and possible new player city of Spokane could save $267,000 a year if they combine efforts. Of course, it will take $4.5 million to buy and renovate the building.
Mielke and Hill will pay a visit to the Spokane Valley City Council on March 6 to pitch their proposal for the partnership. It’s an inspired idea, but Valley Mayor Tom Towey said Monday it’s possible there are other options that could be explored.
“I think a regional concept is good,” he said, but added he was unsure about three-way ownership in a building.
Well, there are always unknowns in life. Tigra or Tindi, if they could talk, would likely say they had their own share of doubts about their future.
Then again, like the song says, don’t bother asking for explanations. She’ll just tell you that she came in the Year of the Cat.