Jambalaya was mad.
Wednesday the 1-year-old, 12-pound cat was moved from the old Jacksonville Humane Society facility to the $15 million almost-finished new one next door. Then Thursday a society staffer again tried to move him from his comfy new digs to a cramped cat carrier.
Jambalaya strongly resisted, blocking the carrier door with his paws. He didn’t seem to care that he and 39 other cats were to be transported to a secure building at Sarasota’s Cat Depot ahead of Hurricane Irma. It was necessary to make space at for animals possibly displaced by the storm.
He was so mad it took two people to get him inside the carrier.
“Teamwork,” said volunteer Tony Schellenger.
The cat transport was part one of the effort to relocate about 150 society animals. Society dogs were to be sent to Lynchburg, Va., on Friday. Only 50 or so ill or injured animals will remain at the society’s hospital and the new building’s medical section, said Executive Director Denise Deisler.
The society has reciprocal agreements with Cat Depot and many other Florida shelters to help each other during hurricanes or other crises. Deisler initially planned to take in some of the Sarasota facility’s animals, but when Irma’s track moved eastward, the plan was reversed. The Virginia connection stemmed from Deisler’s friendship with the head of the Lynchburg shelter.
The relocated animals will be up for adoption at the Sarasota and Lynchburg shelters and not return to Jacksonville.
The society’s big news of the week was supposed to be moving animals and some staff into the completed part of the new building, paving the way for the remaining two old buildings to be torn down. That happened — “We’re overjoyed,” Deisler said — but Irma stole their thunder.
“That darn storm had to come,” she said. “Where was the joyful moment of the move?”
So first priority became taking care of Jacksonville animals lost or displaced because of Irma. When the shelter reopened last year after Hurricane Matthew, there was a line of people bringing in lost animals they found, she said, and that may well be the case after Irma. The society will be open through Saturday and reopen as soon as possible after the storm.
Relocating the shelter’s existing population gives the society the ability to help not only those animals, but shelters in South Florida or other areas expected to be more severely impacted by Irma, she said.
The old society buildings — the only part of the shelter that survived a 2007 fire that killed 86 animals — are likely to be demolished next week.
“If they did it now, there would be piles of debris” still at the site when Irma arrived, which could lead to such debris becoming dangerous projectiles, said development director Amy Pierce.
Meanwhile, some of the Auld & White workers who are busy finishing the new building got to take an unusual break Wednesday to help move animals into their new kennels.
“I asked them if that is the weirdest thing anybody ever asked them to do,” Pierce said. “They said yes.”
The rest of the new 40,000-sqare-foot building is expected to be occupied in October and a grand opening is scheduled for Nov. 9–11. It will be the first time that all shelter operations will be housed under one roof.
The new facility will not change the society’s capacity of 400 or so animals but will provide healthier living conditions, special areas for animals that do not tolerate kennel life well, an indoor agility court and a welcoming space for potential adopters to meet animals, among other things. The fundraising campaign still needs to raise almost $4 million.
Beth Reese Cravey: (904) 359-4109