Wis. shelter helped by cat’s 26 toes is closing

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A Milwaukee area animal shelter that turned a cat’s near-record 26 toes into a fundraising windfall is closing.

In 2011, the Milwaukee Animal Rescue Center started asking for $26 donations — a dollar for each toe — for a new building after finding out their rent was doubling at a Greendale mall.

Normal cats have 18 toes, but the orange and white tabby named Daniel has two extra on each foot due to a genetic mutation called polydactylism.

Center owner Amy Rowell found Daniel at animal control when she went to pick up another cat in fall 2011. As she bent down to that cat’s cage, Daniel stuck his paw out and poked her head. Rowell said she couldn’t help but take him to the shelter, which took in animals that might otherwise be euthanized. He has served as the shelter’s mascot since then, greeting visitors and making public appearances.

He helped raised more than $120,000 through the promotion and Rowell bought and remodeled a Greenfield building. It opened in April 2012, but fundraising has since dried up and they were losing too much money in property maintenance and overhead, Rowell said.

She said Monday all her time went toward the shelter, which she started 8 years ago.

“This has been by 24-7 for eight years,” she said. “I don’t think a lot of people recognize or appreciate just how much time and energy is put into small businesses.”

She said closing would better serve the community, so the resources and energy available could go to more established animal welfare initiatives.

The shelter is cutting adoption fees in half to $50, in order to find homes for the remaining 24 cats and four dogs by the end of July. But she expects it to take longer since they have a lot of special needs animals.

Rowell has adopted Daniel and has found a job as a director of development at a local high school. But she said she and Daniel plan to volunteer for animal welfare initiatives.

“We’ll adore him for the rest of his life,” she said.

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