Animal Rescue League at capacity for felines | News, Sports, Jobs

Animal Rescue League at capacity for felines | News, Sports, Jobs

Animal Rescue League of Marshalltown Executive Director Austin Gillis holds “Amber,” a younger kitty waiting for adoption. He said she needs to reach 3 pounds and get fixed before they can adopt her out. Gillis said Amber, along with her two sisters, were brought to the ARL one month ago and are now “perfect little cuddle bugs.” There are also older cats at the ARL which are just as loving and waiting for their forever homes.

For the second time this year, the Animal Rescue League (ARL) of Marshalltown is at capacity for cats, and asking the public for help.

Executive Director Austin Gillis said they stopped taking in cats last week after acquiring more than 100 felines. The organization has 64 kitties available for adoption, 50 which are not yet ready for forever homes and 10 in foster care. Now is the time for people to adopt a cat, he said, which is the biggest help the ARL can get right now.

“If you can’t adopt, foster. If you can’t foster, volunteer. If you can’t volunteer, donate. If you can’t donate, advocate,” said Jodi Gillis, who also works at the ARL.

The first time in 2024 the ARL put a hold on cats was in January. Gillis said the influx of cats has been almost nonstop this year.

“We just keep getting them in, and in, and in, and not adopting out,” he said. “We’ve gotten to a point where we would get 10 to 15 adopted, but then we get 16 in. We would adopt out two, but then get three. It’s one step forward, two steps back.”

Gillis said they are also getting an unusually large number of people wanting to surrender their pets. The ARL even has a surrender waiting list with hundreds of animals waiting for a spot.

“We get a dog or cat adopted, move one from the stray hold and contact someone on the surrender list,” he said. “We’re getting to the point where we are never empty. We can’t take them in.”

The reality is a tough one for Gillis and his wife, Jodi – self-professed animal lovers. People have come to surrender an animal and when they are informed there is no room, and actually a waiting list, they tell the ARL staff they will shoot it. In those cases, Gillis said they try to intervene, and ask what it is that is preventing the person from keeping the pet.

“It’s very frustrating when we’re full,” he said. “It’s hard to balance.”

With the large number of surrenders taking place, the ARL has increased the surrender fee in some cases to help pay for the organization’s costs. Jodi said it costs the ARL an average of $250 to take a cat and adopt it out, and $375 for a dog.

If someone has to surrender the pet because of a hardship, Gillis said they understand those circumstances and the fee is lower. If there is evidence of abuse or neglect, the fee is raised because the animal requires more care.

“They think they can just give it to us for nothing, and then threaten to kill it if we don’t take it,” he said. “I’ve been here long enough to see if we don’t make some changes, it will be hard to keep the doors open.”

‘Drowning in cats’

Jodi said Marshalltown is in a crisis with feral cats. There are just too many.

“We are drowning in cats, our entire community is,” she said. “We need all the help we can get.”

Just in one visit, a person brought in a plastic tote containing eight kittens. The ARL is usually prepared for an increase of cats during the spring and early summer months every year, because that is when felines typically breed.

“This is when we get babies galore,” Gillis said. “One of the biggest problems we run into is people will see a small kitten, pick them up and bring them to us. Their hearts are in the right place, but unfortunately, especially with feral cats, the moms are probably hunting and coming back.”

The ARL staff will tell people if they see cats, especially young ones, they should just monitor them for a little while to make sure the mama is not nearby. Chances are, he said, she will come back. One way Marshalltown residents can determine if the mother is no longer in the picture is sprinkling flour around the spot where the kitten is lying. If the flour has been disturbed, it’s likely the mom returned at some point.

“If there’s no signs of paw prints, chances are something did happen to Mom, and then we can help out,” Gillis said.

Bringing the kitten in before determining whether or not it is alone can be fatal for both the baby and the mother. He said by removing the kitten, the mother will not have a way to express her milk and will die as a result. If a kitten is taken from the mom before weaning, the rate of survival drops to 1 percent. Normally, a baby cat is weaned five to eight weeks from birth, Gillis said.

With the overabundance of cats in one facility, he said certain illnesses spread, such as pink eye or ringworm. Both are transmissible through touch. Gillis added even with following all of the hygienic practices, those illnesses get around. As a result, the ARL has closed off the cat adoption room, keeping the ill cats separate, and preventing people from touching them.

For reasons such as illness, the ARL does keep a small number of empty kennels to allow for transition.

“At this point, we can’t accept any and we hate to do that,” he said. “We can’t staff it, care for them. We don’t have the funding.”

To help find forever homes for some of the cats, the $35 ARL adoption fee has been dropped by 50 percent. The discount applies to cats which have been at the facility for more than six months. The adoption fee will be waived in the case of Rena, a friendly, orange kitty who has been there for more than one year.

Gillis said the cost of adopting a cat is cheaper than buying one brand new, or even taking in a stray. All of the ARL cats are up-to-date on vaccines, microchipped, tested for feline diseases and are spayed and neutered, saving future owners potentially thousands of dollars.

According to Jodi, they do not reject adoption applications often. Some of the instances when adoption is denied is when abuse is found in a person’s background check, or a veterinarian determines the person would not be a good owner.

Gillis said they are willing to work with potential pet parents. There have been some times when the person and the animal are not good matches with each other. Gillis said the adoption for that particular pet is denied, but they will find a different animal which would be a better fit.

“We do offer foster to adopt, in case you are on the edge,” he said. “We want to make sure you get what will fit your family, not just what you think is cute right now, because that animal will come back to me in three months because you determined you can’t take care of it or it’s not what you wanted.”

Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 ext. 210 or

Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox

Animal Rescue League at capacity for felines | News, Sports, Jobs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top