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Shelter That Performs Gay Feline Marriages Finds New Home After Fire

By Patrick Hedlund | April 26, 2011 7:48pm | Updated on April 27, 2011 6:29am

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

EAST VILLAGE — After a fire tore through Ollie's Place cat adoption center in February, killing six felines and leaving countless others traumatized, the nonprofit knew it was time for a change.

"It was horrendous, it was so traumatic," said Michelle Marlowe, executive director of Mighty Mutts, the group that oversees Ollie's Place. "It's just been a really emotional time, so we're hoping for a fresh start."

Thankfully, the no-kill center — which gained notoriety earlier this year for hosting a cheeky same-sex wedding ceremony for kitty partners Solomon and Bruno — had secured a new space in the East Village. Staffers from the former East 26th Street location quickly realized the benefit of being in such a high-traffic area, where dozens of interested pet owners immediately began stopping in to ask about adoption.

"We're getting a lot of positive feedback, people are excited," said Ollie's Place operations manager Kit Efraimson, who noted that the center has already found homes for three cats since arriving at the East 9th Street address — something that could have taken up to a year based on foot traffic at the former location.

"We've had more visitors since we've been here than in the last six months [at the old space]."

And that's all before the new center officially opens to the public on Sunday.

The adoption center is not a "shelter,"  Efraimson noted, explaining that they put the cats through rigorous medical tests and pay to spay or neuter the animals.

The center also doesn't give its felines — which are brought in from kill shelters or off the streets — to just anyone. Would-be pet owners are screened to ensure they intend to permanently house the animals, and the cats do a trial home visit to make sure it's the right match.

"That's the worst thing for animals, to be shuffled from place to place," Marlowe said. "They become like family."

Efraimson stressed that despite being a bit older, the cats are perfectly healthy well taken care of at the center. The new East Village space features plenty of room to house the kitties, as well as a back playroom for the cats to interact with adopters and get exercise.

But the real strength is the location, staff said, where plenty of well-heeled residents are moving all the time.

"We are so excited about this neighborhood. It's young and energetic," Marlowe said. "Now you've got young, moneyed people who can offer good homes for us, who can afford veterinary care. We're thrilled."

As for Solomon and Bruno, they're a package deal and have been waiting exclusively for someone willing to take on both cats due to their six-year bond.

"They just clicked," said Efraimson, explaining that Solomon arrived after Bruno and helped make him less shy and withdrawn. "Solomon is always there for Bruno. They cuddle and sleep together. Solomon is kind of his protector."

Ollie's Place's hands-on approach to its animals — the cost to adopt doesn't include the price of spaying/neutering — means that the organization is constantly dealing with a lack of funding, staff said.

But with the new space, Marlowe said she is hoping to double or even quadruple the amount of adoptions done at Ollie's Place.

"We're always under financial strain," added Efraimson. "People are just like, 'You should take on fewer animals.' So, I'm going to let that animal die in the street?"

The official grand opening of Ollie's Place in the East Village will take place on Sun., May 1, at the new address, 430 E. 9th St., from 2 to 8 p.m.