Kim Parrish stands in what will be the lobby of the new animal shelter amidst two rows of animal carriers. In each carrier is a cat, casualties of the area’s latest animal debacle, a private cat rescue operation gone awry.
“We have three shelters in operation right now,” says Parrish.
The SPCA of Northeast North Carolina has its primary shelter located at 100 Wilson St. in Elizabeth City, but it also has the new building on Enterprise Road in Weeksville, and it is operating a shelter in the Albemarle Regional Jail for 80 fight dogs captured in a raid several weeks ago.
Parrish, SPCA board president, explained that the new shelter building is in limbo because the SPCA needs to raise $189,000 additional dollars before it can go through a bid process that will ultimately construct a more modern facility — the current one is shabby and leaves a lot to be desired, she says.
“We’re the only act in town,” says Parrish of the shelter. “Anything animal is us and we are so stretched right now.”
Last month law enforcement officials busted a dog fighting operation in Elizabeth City. Parrish was involved with the retrieval of the animals and she says the sight of them was horrendous.
She says the fight dogs have scars all over their bodies. Some are the “friendliest, sweetest” dogs, but others are scared and are “stomach crawlers,” indicating extreme fear.
“The assumption is they were only used for fighting,” says Parrish. “Bait dogs to lure and train other dogs.”
Then later in February the SPCA and Pasquotank County Animal Control officers paid a visit to a building on the corner of Nixonton and Dryridge Roads. Inside the building they found 72 cats living amidst their own waste.
“They were in that building since maybe October,” says Parrish. “Some of them just ran to us because they missed human contact.”
Parrish says an operation calling itself Angela’s Angels Cat Rescue was housing the felines. Operated by Angela Fenner, the rescue was a registered non-profit that apparently got out of hand.
“I think their hearts were in the right place but they got overwhelmed,” Parrish says of the cat rescue group.
The cats that were rescued from the facility were dispersed to different shelters and rescues, and some were euthanized for various reasons.
The 13 cats housed in the SPCA’s new building are undergoing a course of antibiotics and will eventually be introduced into the shelter’s cat population and will be available to the public for adoption.
Before either the fight dog bust or the discovery of 72 cats living in filth in Weeksville, the SPCA has been working constantly to maintain a decent space for the animals it cares for to live and thrive. Parrish says the shelter has what they call a high live release rate – that’s the number of animals that are adopted out of the shelter – but while the animals live inside the shelter they need more space and better facilities.
The new facility on Enterprise Road will provide the SPCA with the sort of space it needs to better the quality of life for these homeless animals. What it likely won’t do, says Parrish, is provide more space.
“It’s not that it’s that much bigger,” she says. “It’s a better quality of life. It will help with keeping the animals healthier.”
The way things work in the current shelter, if the staff takes in a pregnant dog, that dog is housed in the bathroom, away from the main canine population. In the small
kennels, there are sometimes two and three dogs sharing a space.
“If we built the Taj Mahal here we would fill up,” says Parrish.
The environmental factor plays into the health of a dog or a cat. While the staff at the SPCA shelter keeps things clean and animals are well cared for, the cramped quarters seem to create a sort of frenzied environment for the animals.
Walk into the shelter to visit with the dogs and it’s a cacophony of deafening barking. Across the way, the cats are being cats, coolly lying around, but even they need more space.
The new shelter would provide more space for cats and dogs, and perhaps even better acoustics for the hearing-sensitive.
Thing is, the shelter must raise that money and Parrish says while the community has been there for these recent emergencies, she’s hearing from some who claim they won’t assist this shelter because they euthanize animals.
Parrish takes issue with this, she says. She explains that while there are cats and dogs in their care that have had to be put down, those happen because extenuating circumstances. The shelter, she explained, goes out of its way to keep these animals alive and find them homes.
No-kill shelters, she argues, are fine but they are private operations that limit the amount of animals they will take in. She says once no-kill shelters reach their limit, a shelter such as the SPCA is the only other alternative.
That’s why, she says, the staff their works hard to find the animals home.
She says the so-called live-release rate of dogs is more than 90 percent. For cats it’s much lower, but that has a lot to do with the number of cats that are out there.
“There’s just so many cats,” says Parrish. “There are a lot more cats than dogs.”
And if there are people who are concerned with euthanizing animals, the SPCA conducts spay and neuter programs and take donations to support those. Supporting those programs will limit the number of unwanted litters that will eventually find their way into a shelter.
But in the meantime, while the SPCA of Northeast North Carolina is caring for rescued cats, and 80 badly abused pit bulls, it’s also working on finding the means to finish the new shelter.
Parrish says she is confident that they can raise the needed funds by December. She says once that happens, they will go through the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to find bids to construct the facility.
For now, however, there are dogs and cats that need homes. And there are dogs and cats that are being sheltered that could use a few volunteers, says Parrish.
For more information about the SPCA of Northeast North Carolina call 252-338-5222.