Mimi, one of the rescued cats, in her new home.
This June, our Animal Rescue Team joined Alachua County Animal Services for one of the largest cat rescues in U.S. history. It took us two days to remove nearly 700 cats from appalling conditions in Florida, and The HSUS has spent nearly five months since then, caring for these animals at our emergency shelter and nursing them back to health with the help of many volunteers and other animal groups.
Today I’m happy to announce that every single treatable, adoptable cat from this rescue has either been adopted or placed with a shelter or rescue group for adoption.
Michelle Cascio, who works with our Emergency Placement Partners network of shelters and rescues that volunteer to take in animals from our deployments, sent this update about the Florida cats.
This August, our huge adopt-a-thon with the Alachua County Humane Society and other local groups found good homes for more than 250 of the rescued cats. After the amazing success of this three-day event, we started reaching out to our Emergency Placement Partners in the hopes of transferring more adoptable cats to them to find new homes. We quickly placed a total of 81 cats with the Alachua County Humane Society, Jacksonville Humane Society, and Helping Hands Rescue. Jacksonville Humane Society planned a special adoption event promoting the rescued cats, and after its success the shelter picked up an additional nine cats. A few more cats went home with HSUS staff members and volunteers.
Soon our volunteers and other staff started to help with placement, in addition to the exceptional care they were providing to the cats. Our goal was to find homes for all the animals by Oct. 31. HSUS staffer Heather Carpenter asked the Marion County Humane Society to take in several animals. Volunteers found well-supported Trap-Neuter-Return programs for the feral cats we rescued who would not do well in a home environment. Fancy Ferals, a TNR group in Gainesville, and Cedar Key TNR welcomed ferals into their existing programs. Soon after, Alachua County Animal Services found new homes for 18 cats, and the Alachua County Humane Society adopted out another eight.
A local veterinary practice, All Cats Health Care Clinic, not only provided medical care in our emergency shelter, but also took special-needs animals one by one and adopted them to its clients. The affectionate orange cat featured in several of our videos, Velcro, recently went to the clinic and is waiting to find his perfect match.
The number of cats looking for homes dropped, but we needed to expand our outreach. We communicated with our placement partners along the eastern seaboard, offering funding for a special adoption event if they could accept 10 of the rescued cats. Last week, dedicated volunteer Rick Hughes drove from Florida to North Carolina and delivered 30 cats to the SPCA of Wake County, Guilford County Animal Shelter, and the Colonial Capital Humane Society. Alachua County Animal Services helped transport 20 animals to Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League, which will also receive an HSUS grant for a special adoption event.
Some of the rescued cats have feline leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus, two illnesses that make placement more challenging. One lucky feline-leukemia-positive kitty flew with NDART volunteer Lou Montgomery to Maryland’s Rude Ranch Animal Rescue. Another four survivors flew with Best Friends volunteers to Las Vegas and will live at Best Friends Animal Society.
Carson Springs Wildlife Foundation and Sanctuary stepped up to add the remaining ferals to their TNR program and to help find good homes for barn cats. But the most amazing outcome remained. Earlier this week, there were still 11 animals unspoken for because they were feline leukemia- or FIV-positive. Christine Janks, founder of Carson Springs, offered to house them and enlisted University of Florida veterinary school volunteers to provide their care. These 11 cats were the last to find placement, and they found was a perfect fit thanks to the generous spirit of Carson Springs.
The final outcome? Every healthy or treatable cat—whether they are feral, feline leukemia- or FIV-positive, or just a social sweetie-pie—found the right place. It was a miracle performed by one amazing village after almost 5 months of being in our care.