Intake a juggling act at Safe Haven animal shelter

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Their message machine may say they aren't accepting any more cats but members of Peninsula Friends of Animals say intake at the Safe Haven animal shelter is a delicate and constant shuffling process.

The 5,000-square-foot house-turned-animal-shelter off U.S. Highway 101 between Sequim and Port Angeles has a permitted capacity of 60 cats but hovers around 45 to maintain better quality and adoptability for the felines, PFOA board president Diane Lopez said.

Nancy Campbell, a shelter volunteer, said when there are too many cats they get behavioral issues from being stressed out and therefore are harder to adopt.

"Nobody wants to adopt a cat that's hiding," she said.

A list is maintained so as cats are adopted out, new cats in need of housing are brought in, she said. Emergency situations are dealt with as they happen.

The cats are housed throughout the shelter, with adult cats spread among four general-use rooms, a quarantine room, isolation room, two time-out rooms and a room off the garage shared by two cats that have tested positive for feline immunodeficiency virus, Lopez said.

There also is David, a 2-year-old cat who was moved to an outside sheltered dog kennel he preferred to rooming with other cats, she said.

Kittens are housed in two rooms on the main floor of the house after they are fostered by volunteers, she said. Kittens must be cared for at a foster home until they can get their first round of shots, Lopez said.

Currently there are nine kittens in the shelter and more than 60 have come through this year, Campbell said.

'Friends' manage birth rate

Before any cat is adopted, it must be spayed or neutered, which is central to PFOA's mission to prevent the birth of unwanted animals, Lopez said.

Upon their intake, cats are placed in the quarantine room for two weeks where they are checked by a veterinarian and treated for any problems, Lopez said.

Where a cat is placed depends on its particular needs such as if it gets along with other cats, what health issues it has and its age, she said. Finding the right placement and shifting the cats around to achieve both the best arrangement and to make room for incoming cats is a difficult balance, Lopez said.

Because of the shuffling, it can be difficult to know where there is room to place new cats, she said.

Some of the cats have been at the shelter since it opened a decade ago, Campbell said. Cats with special needs or behavioral quirks are especially hard to place, she said.

Many of the cats have sad stories of abandonment, neglect, abuse or loss of an owner. Campbell said cats that have lost their owner and home go through a grieving process when they arrive, whereas cats that were abandoned or neglected seem to be relieved and happy.

The recession has caused an increase in pet owners who no longer can care for their animals and have to give them up, she said. The shelter often gets calls from people who lost their houses and now are renting a place that doesn't accept pets or are living in their cars and can't take care of them, she said.

Since the shelter opened, more than 1,200 cats have been adopted and 5,000 have been spayed or neutered through PFOA's spay and neuter program, Lopez said.

Volunteers always are needed to help socialize, foster or donate supplies to the shelter. Lopez said the shelter has many dedicated volunteers who foster several animals at a time.

Plans for an expanded shelter, care facility, adoption center and memorial garden have been put on hold due to the economy, Lopez said.

For more information, call 452-0414 or go to

Reach Amanda Winters at

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