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Officials Dealing With More Cats Than Inmates At Florida Prison

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Animal control officers are scrambling to figure out where 80 cats living at a state prison facility in Belle Grade, Fla., will go once the prison closes next month. (credit: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

Animal control officers are scrambling to figure out where 80 cats living at a state prison facility in Belle Grade, Fla., will go once the prison closes next month. (credit: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

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PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS Tampa) – One Florida prison that has more cats than inmates is about to close, leaving state officials with a serious feline problem.

Palm Beach County animal control officers continue to figure out how to remove 80 cats from the state-run prison in Belle Grade, hoping the felines can find a home when the facility closes Dec. 1.

Recently, the state announced the prison, which usually would hold 1,000 inmates, would close this year, with the state slowly moving prisoners to other facilities. Currently, there are more cats than inmates as only 69 inmates remain at the Belle Grade facility, the Palm Beach Post reports. The cats have been found living under the fences of the prison and living around the facility’s buildings.

But there could be some obstacles in moving the prison cats to homes, such as adoption fees. The office for Animal Care and Control has even sent an email to animal protection groups to see if they could waive those fees. To this point, 23 cats from the prison have been taken to Palm Beach County’s animal shelter, but 19 of those were declared feral and not eligible for adoption. Animal control officials have indicated that the majority of them have been euthanized.

“Our goal is to save as many of the healthy, adoptable cats as possible and to place them into living homes,” Animal Care and Control Director Dianne Sauve told the Palm Beach Post.

And there has been concern that the prison cats could stretch the county’s animal shelter resources thin, potentially leading to a jump in euthanasia cases. This comes as the euthanasia rate for Florida cats dropped by 24 percent in the last budget year.

To this point, prison staffers are working to trap about 10 cats a day, using traps and cages to help with the removal. The inmates themselves, however, are a different story, continuing to feed the cats, which is a prohibited practice at the state prison.

Messages left by CBS Tampa for the state’s Department of Correction were not immediately returned.

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