IT HAPPENS more than you’d think: pets living in the community that have been abused, abandoned or neglected and in need of rescue.
Thankfully, there are groups that will rescue these animals and foster them until they can be placed in a permanent, loving, adoptive home.
In 2010 and 2011, the local rescue group, the Northern Animal Rescue Alliance, (NARA) rescued more than 400 dogs, cats, kittens and puppies.
But there are many still out there living wherever they can near businesses or residences hoping to find food and shelter.
Since May 23 of this year, the two co-chairs of the group, Cam Bellamy and Marissa Wagner, have rescued 134 animals between them.
Most of those are sent to rescue groups in Vancouver, as very few are adopted here in Terrace and area.
Rescuers are born, not made
Bellamy, a self-professed animal lover, started a chapter of the SPCA here a few years ago but it didn’t last long.
She then moved over to help out a chapter of Dogs Deserve Better, but found that since its mission was to rescue chained and penned dogs, she couldn’t rescue cats on behalf of it so she stepped away from it.
She and Wagner began NARA, although its name wasn’t made official until the beginning of 2012.
The group now has 27 members and out of those, 10 are foster ‘parents’ to the animals that are rescued. Other members take part in raising money, publicity and other tasks.
NARA advocates for abused, neglected and abandoned animals in the community of Terrace and surrounding area. The mission is to provide means to a better life for all animals that come into its care, whether that means providing rescue placement, short-term care and responsible rehoming, rehabilitation for illness and injury or providing sanctuary for the old and un-adoptable.
Fostering involves looking after the animals, not only feeding and sheltering them but also socializing them so they can be adopted.
Some foster homes may choose to only look after cats and kittens, or also take in dogs and puppies.
Some agree to look after animals that need medications or are so young they need to be fed every few hours.
Animals are fostered until they are old enough to be put up for adoption or sent to other rescue groups down south to find homes for them. As of Oct. 2, 42 animals were in care.
Foster and adoptive parents fill out an application and are screened so they will be suitable, have a home that can socialize and care for the animals and give them their own space if needed.
NARA, which exists on money raised on its own, from financial donations and donations of supplies, can provide carriers, kennels, food, bowls, litter, litter boxes, bedding and other items to foster homes if needed.
Before adopting animals out, NARA gets them to the vet so they can be spayed/neutered, vaccinated, given flea, worm and ear mite treatments and be microchipped so they’re ready for their new owners.
Potential adoptive homes are screened too; people fill out an application and will be asked about letting a NARA member in for a home visit, ideally before an adoption is finalized.
For kittens and puppies, there is a set cost for adoption, which all goes back into NARA to help pay for spay/neuter, vaccinations, flea and other treatments and microchipping.
Adoption fees for cats and dogs are not a specific price but are by donation. However, NARA has an outstanding vet bill as adoption fees don’t cover it all.
All members of NARA are volunteers who give of their time, selves and homes to care for the animals they take in. NARA is responsible for the animals it adopts out for the rest of their lives and it’s not a responsibility taken lightly.
Busier than a bee
Bellamy can get as many as 10 calls a day from people concerned about a stray animal and wanting it to be helped.
Not everyone can be helped as the foster homes fill up quickly.
A person will call about a cat or cats and kittens living under their shed for example, and the person thinks his or her place is the only one with this problem, but they’re not.
Several cat colonies live in various areas around the city, for example.
NARA is currently working on rescuing all the cats and kittens living at the soon-to-be demolished Little Ave. barrack buildings.
About 15 have already been rescued from there but as many as 20 or 25 could still be there.
The group sets out traps for them but the problem is the cats most often caught are the dominant males and not the mothers or kittens.
Ideally the group members will be able to get them all out before the buildings are demolished, otherwise the animals will have to find a new place to live.
And contrary to what people think: an abandoned cat cannot just go out and hunt for food as if it was a wild animal; it’s used to someone feeding it and will go looking for something to eat and a place that’s warm and safe.
There’s always more
Part of the reason for the abundance of cats and kittens is that people don’t take responsibility and spay or neuter their pets.
A cat can come into heat for the first time at about six months old and have a litter.
“Kittens can have kittens,” says Bellamy.
Many cats are pregnant again before their current litter is weaned and the average size litter is five kittens, says Bellamy.
Kittens are weaned from about six to eight weeks old and often the mother will be pregnant again by the time they’re eight to 12 weeks old.
The easiest way to solve the problem is for people to get their pets spayed and neutered as soon as they’re old enough to have it done.
More foster homes are always needed.
Cats and kittens are on display at Total Pet Thursdays to Saturdays along with information about them and how to go about applying to adopt them.
NARA has its own website, is on Facebook, and can be contacted at either by email.
Several cats in care currently would be perfect barn cats as they’re not quite tame enough to be an indoor pet but still need to be fed and have shelter.
They are free and have been spayed/neutered and treated for fleas and worms.
Ideally, kittens that would be good barn cats should be adopted in pairs or groups but adults can be adopted separately.
Bellamy says ideal adoptees are people who will live at that location for the life of the cat or several years and provide it with food, water and shelter from the elements.
NARA is still a fledgling society and just recently elected its co-chairs, secretary, treasurer and committees. It’s looking to get charitable status so it can apply for grant money and issue tax receipts for donations, which is a process that takes time.
And it’s looking at setting up a board of directors, which charities need.
The group wants to get into the schools and teach children about proper care and treatment of animals.
Bellamy says another idea is to get the Canadian Animal Assistance Team here as it provides free spay and neuter services.
Plans are underway for events such as a Halloween dance, pet photos with Santa, an online auction, garage sale, pub night, barbecues and more. Bottle drives are ongoing. And donations of pet supplies are always needed and appreciated.
Margaret Speirs is a self-professed animal lover and new member of NARA.