Maddie’s Program at UF collaborates in Million Cat Challenge

Levy pic - Copy

Dr. Julie Levy

Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida, in partnership with the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California-Davis, has created an educational campaign called “The Million Cat Challenge,” which provides resources and guidance on key initiatives that will help shelters reduce euthanasia of cats in North American animal shelters by a target of one million cats by 2018.

The five-year project is made possible by a gift of $1.8 million from Maddie’s Fund. A total of $914,788 will support UF’s role in the initiative, including Levy’s salary and development of the website that forms the core of the educational campaign and which will update the number of cat’s lives saved daily.

Five-saving initiatives were created in part by research performed in shelters by Levy’s shelter medicine team, which is renowned for discoveries regarding disease control in shelters, humane community cat management, and improving the success of pet adoptions.

“A high priority will be placed on Florida shelters right from the start,” Levy said. “Like other southern states, Florida is struggling to cope with a serious cat overpopulation problem, resulting in high euthanasia rates. Having the Million Cat Challenge based in Florida will give these shelters early access to the campaign’s life-saving tools and mentoring. ”

Levy will be addressing regional shelter managers at the Florida Animal Control Association’s annual conference in February.

The state of Florida does not monitor shelters or collect shelter data, so until recently, no one knew how many animals were taken in by shelters and what happened to them, Levy said. Last year, she and veterinary student Casey Miller conducted the state’s first animal shelter census and found that cats were not faring as well as dogs.

Levy and Miller found that 130 animal shelters spent $158 million to take in 475,000 cats and dogs. While 75% of dogs were saved, only 45% of cats were.

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