Cat adoption center opens at Melbourne Square mall

MELBOURNE, Fla. - A Brevard County couple is opening a cat adoption center in the Melbourne Square mall after they were stunned to hear how high the euthanasia rate is for cats at the county-run animal shelters.

Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports Rick and Lisa Lewis were stunned when they heard about how thousands of cats die each year because no one adopts them.

The Lewises, who are winter residents of Lansing Island, decided to do something about it. They are putting up about $10,000 to open a cat adoption center in Melbourne Square mall.

The idea is to offer shelter cats for adoption at a high-traffic location away from the animal shelter setting. The Melbourne Square center — run by the SPCA of Brevard — will open Friday, which is likely to be one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals operates a "no-kill" shelter in Titusville, and often accepts dogs and cats from the county-run shelters when those shelters reach capacity. The number of dogs and cats coming into the county shelters far exceeds the number being adopted.

It's particularly difficult for cats, according SPCA of Brevard executive director Patrick Fox, noting that about 63 percent of the cats that entered the county shelters in the past year were euthanized. That's nearly 3,900 cats.

The Lewises hope the new adoption center in the mall will help reduce those numbers.

"This is a matter of saving lives, and we take it very seriously," said Rick Lewis, who is the retired chief executive officer of The Talking Phone Book telephone directory company, which had been owned by his family. "If these cats don't get adopted, their lives will end with a shot on a cold, stainless-steel table."

Brevard County Animal Services and Enforcement director Karla Torpy said she is pleased to hear about the Lewises' effort.

"This is a very exciting adoption opportunity for our community and for cats who are in need of forever homes," Torpy said. "Some people have a stigma about visiting a shelter. This provides positive exposure for the animals in a familiar surrounding and more comfortable setting for most folks."

Lewis and his wife, Lisa Lewis, a retired physician's assistant, contribute to a number of causes. But animals have a special place in their hearts. They have 10 rescue cats of their own.

"We've always had a soft spot for animals," Rick Lewis said. "Cats are wonderful pets to have. They have wonderful personalities."

"There's a very, very tragic situation in Brevard County," Rick Lewis said, referring to the high euthanasia rate for cats.

Fox said the store is rented through Dec. 31, and he plans to extend the lease if it proves to be a successful approach.

"The mall concept is being embraced nationally, and everyone that I know of who has tried it indicates that it has been very effective," Fox said.

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