The Kentucky Humane Society found homes for more animals in 2019 than ever before, according to PR and Marketing Director Andrea Blair. Over 6,800 homeless dogs, cats and horses were adopted in the past 12 months — that’s about 700 more adoptions than in 2018.
Blair says a change in the overall pet culture caused the increase. "Louisville has definitely got on to the 'adopt don't shop' model," Blair said. "So many people are choosing to adopt when they're acquiring a new animal for their home."
Another factor is the addition of a cat cafe that’s partnering with the Humane Society. Purrfect Day Cafe opened on Bardstown Road in 2018. They serve coffee, snacks, and cocktails that patrons can enjoy in the company of adoptable cats and kittens. And if they bond with a certain feline, they can apply to take them home and keep the play date going for life.
Around 1,500 cats found homes through Purrfect Day Cafe in 2019, and cats account for the Humane Society's biggest jump in overall adoption numbers this year.
"2019 was definitely the year of the cat," Blair said. In 2018, they found homes for 2,643 cats and kittens. In 2019, that number jumped to more than 3,300.
"Cats are often great companions for senior citizens, busy families, people who travel a lot for work," Blair said. "And we're seeing many many millennials choose to make cats their first companions when they're adding a furry family member."
Blair said animal welfare overall has changed a lot in the past 10 years. "We've seen a tremendous decrease in the number of animals surrendered to local shelters," she said. "So that’s both Kentucky Humane Society and Metro Animal Services."
The biggest decrease? Cats win again. Thanks to organizations like Alley Cat Advocates, and LMAS' shelter, neuter release program, more outdoor, or "community cats" have been spayed and neutered. That means the overall population of homeless cats has dropped.
The lighter load here in Louisville means the Kentucky Humane Society can focus some of its efforts on rural areas of the state, where shelters are often overcrowded and under-funded.
To that end, they launched the Love 120 project almost a year ago. The goal is to help companion animals in all 120 Kentucky counties within the next decade. They’re started with three places with low number of animal lives saved: the Kentucky River Regional Animal Shelter in Hazard, the Breckenridge County Animal Shelter in Hardinsburg, and the Mayfield-Graves County Animal Shelter, near the Tennessee border.
Through the Love 120 project, animals from these shelters are transferred to KHS facilities. "We bring them to Louisville, get them spayed or neutered, do any kind of behavior or medical assessment that they need, and then we place them up for adoption," Blair said. "These are animals, both dogs and cats, that often would not make it out of their rural shelter alive, just because of overcrowding."
It's an uphill battle. In 2016, a University of Kentucky found that only 12 percent of Kentucky shelters were in full compliance with animal welfare laws. Over half had multiple violations — things like poor ventilation, lack of veterinary care, and inappropriate building materials that can’t be disinfected.
"So there's a lot of work to do," Blair said. "We feel like this is where we can have the greatest impact."
The goal is for these first three rural shelters to become self-sufficient and reduce the number of homeless animals in their communities over the next three years.
"And they can then become model shelters and help other shelters across Kentucky become model shelters as well," Blair said. "That's our vision."