CALVERT COUNTY, Md. (NEWSCHANNEL 8) - Each year, 2.7 million animals are euthanized in the United States, according to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
In Calvert County, Maryland, the number of cats being taken from compactor sites and euthanized caught the attention of Carol Hall.
"These little critters shouldn't be euthanized - they haven't done anything to anybody," Hall said, surrounded by kittens in her basement.
In 2001 she and a group of friends decided to do something about the animals being put down; they started rescuing cats from compactor sites. The county found the cats helped regulate the mice and rats.
"We got approval from the county and we went into a test site and we trapped 30-some-odd cats, we spayed and neutered them and we released them."
This way the cat population could be somewhat regulated and the cats and the county would be happy, she said.
In 2004 Hall and her group moved from the county's umbrella and formed Friends of Felines, a nonprofit group that rescues, fosters and adopts cats and kittens.
"A breeding female cat over a period of seven years can be responsible for the birth of over 407,000 cats," Hall said.
"People aren't spaying and neutering; it's education," she explained. "Neutering the males in your neighborhood is not going to help the situation - you've got to get those females, and the males need to be done too, because they're the ones spreading the disease."
Friends of Felines has about 50 members and is largely powered by volunteers who open their homes and give their time. Students can even get their community service hours through volunteering with the group - that's how Rebecca Duty got started.
"It's rewarding," Duty, who's been a volunteer for six years, said. "Every animal that comes into your home and goes from your home comes in for a special reason. I definitely have my pets because of Friends of Felines and working in rescue."
Of the five women who were gathered for a feline photo shoot recently, four said they are fostering more than 10 kittens, and the fifth said she isn't only because of her child's cat allergies. It's not uncommon for volunteers to foster more than 10 cats at a time, Hall said.
"I have had up to 22 here at one time, but the key was that they were all black or black-and-white so [my husband] didn't know how many were here," she said with a laugh.
The nonprofit works with the county but is not financially supported by the county, and volunteers personally absorb the cost of fostering. Hall says without a doubt, the work is still worth it.
"It makes you feel good, that you've saved a life, and that you've enriched somebody else's life," she said.