Orange County Animal Services received a $20,000 grant from Petco Love to support its Working Barn Cat initiative during a ceremony held at the Chapel Hill Petco on East Franklin Street on Tuesday.
Petco Assistant Manager Chris Ponder presented an oversized check to OCAS staff to commemorate the event.
Petco Love is a nonprofit organization partnered with animal welfare organizations and 1,500 Petco stores nationwide. Founded in 1999, the nonprofit has invested $300 million toward adoption and medical programs, pet cancer research and animal welfare projects like the Working Barn Cat initiative.
Ponder said the organization is funded by Petco customers who make donations at checkout.
"Petco Love invests in innovative, dedicated organizations like Orange County Animal Services that work hard to save animal lives every day," he said.
The program sterilizes and vaccinates cats with the intent to place them back in outdoor environments with structures such as barns and stables. The cats adopted through the program will benefit from a safe home while controlling the rodent population within the structure.
OCAS Communications Specialist Tenille Fox said that she is excited to receive the funding for the program, as the shelter receives many kittens in need of homes in the summer.
"It's a great nontoxic way to control rodents on a property," she said. "These are natural instincts that these cats have, and they want to live more independently, so that's why we feel like they would make great working cats since they're not able to be safely handled or petted like your typical house cat."
OCAS Director Dr. Sandra Strong said that OCAS is always pushing the Working Barn Cat initiative to adopt less socialized cats into the program.
"They're not necessarily going to be somebody's pet, but we really want to save them so they can go to a barn or an industrial property and live a happy healthy life," she said. "That's at no cost to citizens, and we do all the spay-neuter, veterinary care, vaccines and everything."
Fox added that the program is partnered with Independent Animal Rescue, a Triangle-based nonprofit that works to find homes for unwanted cats and dogs.
This event comes at the end of Cat Adoption Month. The month is celebrated in June, as it is the height of "kitten season." This means that large litters of kittens often end up in animal shelters at the same time, joining the cats already in shelters.
During the month of June, the adoption fee is reduced to $55 for adult cats and $60 for kittens from the usual $110 and $130 fees, respectively.
Strong said the OCAS barn cat program runs throughout the year.
"We have more than we can find homes for, so if anybody's thinking about getting a cat or a kitten, now is a great time to do it," Strong said.
Strong added that if people are unable to adopt, OCAS is always looking for volunteers and foster parents for all cats as well.
"We really depend on the citizens in the community to take them into their home, grow them up so they're big enough and strong enough to get spayed, neutered and be adopted," she said.
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