Florida Keys News
Thursday, July 18, 2013
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Shelter overrun with dogs, cats, rain
Local pet adoptionsstymied byMiami pits

At the Florida Keys SPCA shelter on Stock Island these days, when it rains, it truly pours.

The nonprofit, which provides animal control services for Monroe County in the Lower Keys along with its mission of adopting out dogs, cats and other small pets, is already struggling with its leaky, flood-prone lot.

On Wednesday, staff arrived to find its growing brood of dogs stuck in kennels that had drawn several inches of standing water from the overnight storm and a waterlogged front lawn.

Floors were squeegeed, cats and dogs were moved to higher ground and one employee used a shovel to steer standing water out of a large fenced-in space.

Now, SPCA leaders say the shelter is also flooded with dogs and cats in need of permanent homes due to a growing trend of people importing pit bulls from Miami-Dade County, which forbids them.

"We only have so much space," said Tammy Fox, the shelter's executive director who formerly owned pit bulls herself. "These dogs here are competing for homes against landlords who don't want them, and now dogs from other shelters."

To help spread the word, the shelter is offering free adoptions of dogs and cats over 5 months old on Friday and Saturday, from noon to 8 p.m. each day.

Private donors are funding the event. As with all adoptions, all the pets will come spayed or neutered, microchipped and up to date on all shots.

On average, a quarter of the dogs at the SPCA, at 5230 College Road, are pits or pit mixes.

On Wednesday, the dog head count was 63, compared to 41 a year ago, said Fox. The cat population sat at 94, soaring above last year's count of about 78.

The Keys SPCA is technically a no-kill shelter, meaning it doesn't put down animals to free up space -- only if a veterinarian has deemed a dog too violent or so ill that it is only suffering.

Fox believes the pit bull rescuers promoting adoptions of Miami-region dogs are only trying to save their lives.

But she wishes they would consider the plight of the local shelter before adding to a small town where the pet adoption market is already tight.

Through social media, Key Westers have been asked to adopt pit bulls reportedly scheduled for death at mainland shelters.

The SPCA, however, is already home to plenty of available pits, staff said.

On Wednesday, the shelter's dogs included a stocky, gregarious puppy pit named Cain, an abuse case still fitted with an e-collar as part of his recovery from a broken leg.

The fawn-and-white Cain bounded about the lobby, jumping up on Fox's lap and then planting his front paws on a visitor's knee, his tail endlessly wagging.

Space is dear at the shelter, whose annual budget of $750,000 is funded primarily by the county. The nonprofit, though, sits on a city-owned plot just over a half-acre big.

In January, city commissioners approved a resolution supporting the shelter's nearly decade-long plan to build a new, 15,000 square-foot complex that would withstand heavy rain.

The SPCA's directors say they have donors lined up to build the new facility, but are stuck in limbo as the city grapples with how to build a 24-hour homeless shelter on land next-door.

Until the city comes up with a plan on how much land it needs for the homeless shelter, pegged for the former Easter Seals property, it can't sign off on giving the SPCA an additional 0.3 acre for its expansion.

Last week, the shelter took in 14 dogs within two days, Fox said.

Since there are no pet stores in Key West selling puppies at the moment, she said the dog influx is obviously coming from the save-the-pit movement.

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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