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Hundreds of cats are taking up residence in local prisons

According to the Department of Corrections, cat colonies are not rare for prisons, but they're seeking help from local animal organizations to reduce the number.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Hundreds of cats are reportedly hanging around a state correctional institution, drawing attention and help from local animal lovers to help reduce the numbers.

It's not the type of visitors you'd expect to see at a correctional facility. Still, according to Denise Wilkinson, CEO of Pawmetto Lifeline, hundreds of cats call Kirkland Correctional Institution home. 

On a recent trip to the facility, Wilkinson said she saw a large cat colony in the yard that inmates were taking care of.

"These cats mean a lot to the inmates. They feed them and they take care of them, and they don't want us to get rid of the cats," Wilkinson said. "You know, pets and those relationships have value." 

Wilkinson said some employees at Kirkland who are also volunteers at Pawmetto Lifeline saw the cats and wanted to help. 

According to the Department of Corrections, it isn't rare for prisons in the state to have feral cat colonies. 

In a statement to News19, the agency said, "Some of our institutions have cat colonies. That is common for prisons. The one at Kirkland is larger than others and we want to get a better handle on managing it."

As a result, Pawmetto Lifeline plans to trap up to 50 cats next week and take care of them. 

"We will spay and neuter them, we will vaccinate them," Wilkinson said. "Any of the cats that are sick, we, of course, are going to treat their medical issues." 

Wilkinson said the organization hopes to gather cats on Monday and Tuesday and then look over them throughout the week, return the fully grown cats, who are feral, and put up the kittens for adoption.

"Wednesday morning, our vets will be surgeries for all of the cats, and on Thursday all of the healthy cats will be returned," Wilkins said.

Wilkinson said this is the first time they've tried a partnership like this and is hopeful it will expand to more facilities.

"If it is successful, we hope to return in three months and repeat the same program," Wilkinson said. "We have a responsibility to do the right thing, and the way we respond to problems in our community, it's a reflection of our values, and killing is never the option." 

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