IN AN attempt to keep cats from being euthanized and promote responsible ownership, a local business has teamed up with an animal shelter and a rescue organization.
Now, people who want to adopt a kitten from the Thornhill shelter don’t have to go there, but can adopt a shelter kitten at Petland.
“It just came out of necessity and examining different ways of increasing our adoptions and minimizing euthanasia,” said Stacey Kennedy, manager Thornhill Dog Control.
Kennedy said she’s working with Cam Bellamy of Northern Animal Rescue Alliance, formerly Dogs Deserve Better, and Rick Williams, owner of Petland.
Bellamy has been “instrumental in opening our eyes that there are other options out there” and Petland came to mind as a satellite adoption agency, said Kennedy.
“The shelter is still the owner of them, it’s just a place to showcase animals. Lots of people take their children there and visit the pet store to take a look and maybe they fall in love with a kitten,” said Kennedy.
The first litter of four kittens was gone within four or five days, she said.
“Our adoption policy is still the same: any animal adopted goes with a spay/neuter certificate. Kittens have their first vaccinations, deworming and flea treatment so they go to a new home as prepared as they can be. [All that] encourages the owner to go [to the vet],” she said, adding the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, the area in which the Thornhill shelter is located, pays for the full cost of spaying or neutering.
And so far the partnership between the shelter and store is working well and is bound to continue as long as there are kittens.
“We certainly don’t have a shortage of them. We would like to one day,” said Kennedy.
The Thornhill shelter doesn’t have a time limit on how long it will keep cats.
“It really just depends on the cat, how well they can tolerate being at the shelter. We don’t want to hold them past the point where they experience kennel stress because it’s just not fair to them,” said Kennedy.
As for how many cats and kittens are put down by the shelter in a year, the numbers can vary, but usually stay within a certain range.
Last year, the Thornhill shelter impounded 138 dogs and 165 cats and, out of that number, 20 dogs and 96 cats were euthanized, said Kennedy.
“Out of the dogs put down, the majority of them were due to an aggressive nature or illness or injury, so if they’re hit by a car and found on the side of the road, it’s a mercy kind of thing,” she said.
“We’ve also had, in my opinion, an increase of animals left at our door, abandoned, injured or suffering from illness, and I think [it’s because] people can’t afford the vet bills,” she said, adding that includes dogs with chronic mange (an infection) or really old dogs that have been someone’s pet for years and are then abandoned at the shelter door.
“It’s a sad way for them to go,” she said about older dogs whose owners can no longer afford to care for them.
“I’ve seen people who honestly can’t afford it and they’re stuck or worse yet, there’s no access to vet services to put the dog down,” she adds, about why people leave their pets at the shelter.
The majority of cats put down are feral cats, meaning wild, or sick feral cats.
Likely the reason fewer dogs are put down is because the shelter picks up dogs running at large who are claimed, and a small number of cats taken to the shelter are picked up and claimed by their owner.
While people will call to say their dog is missing and ask if the shelter has picked it up, the same can’t be said for cats.
“If their cat is missing for a day, they should report them. We only hold them 72 hours,” she said.
“Another thing is it’s very disturbing when animals are left abandoned whether at the shelter or in the bush or anywhere. Do the right thing and bring them in during office hours so they’re not out there in the cold.”
Recently, Kennedy discovered a cat and her kittens left at the shelter door and if she hadn’t shown up, they would’ve frozen to death, she said.
The four white kittens went to Petland – some were still there as of late last week – and the mother was flown to Vancouver.
Kennedy has also worked with the Prince Rupert branch of the SPCA, which has taken some dogs from here.
“We all have the same goal so why not work together and make it happen,” said Kennedy.
Bellamy said she works with several rescuers and uses foster homes to get the cats into their “forever homes.”
In addition to adopting out the animals to screened homes, and having initial vet bills paid for, they’re also identified so if they ever end up in a shelter again they can be traced, said Bellamy.
Thankfully that isn’t too common as homes are screened carefully and those that aren’t completely committed are weeded out, she added.
She also does some fostering and hopes that in time, people will come to Northern Animal Rescue Alliance to adopt cats.
“Right now, there’s so many cats and kittens, they’re everywhere, they practically fall into your lap here. People generally have more cats than they want to own,” she said.
There are more cats around than dogs because cats are prolific breeders, are abandoned more readily than dogs and there aren’t as many protection measures in place for cats, she said.
Cats are not expected to be licensed so there’s no money going to take care of them as there is for dogs, she said.
Another possibility for the abundance of felines could be that people have the idea that cats are more wild than domestic, but those ideas are myths.
“They are domestic. Even when they’re abandoned, they use us whether it’s our garbage or pet food left outside, they cannot survive without us,” she said.
And people tend to leave the spaying or neutering of cats for too long – waiting until they’re one-year-old and, by then, the females are already pregnant and the males are spraying, she said.
Males should be neutered at five-months-old and females should be spayed when they’re six- months-old, she adds.
Pregnant cats aren’t taken care of at the Thornhill shelter because there’s nowhere for the kittens to be born and there’s too much risk of disease for them, said Bellamy.
She will fly cats and kittens to Vancouver where rescue organizations will find them homes.
Rescue organizations are screened beforehand and have to be approved by the SPCA.
Sometimes a pregnant cat will be fostered by someone here until they have their kittens and the kittens are old enough to adopt out.
Foster homes for pets are always in need and are screened the same way as potential adoptive homes are.
One of the advantages of fostering animals is that the foster home has the first option to adopt the animal, she said.
“It’s a great way to adopt and get a long trial period. You get to have it for a month and see if the animal is a good fit,” she said.
“You can’t do much without foster homes,” she adds, saying anyone interested in becoming a foster home for animals can contact her.
“Foster homes are always like gold because it’s something you can get used to but you have to get past that ‘unknown’ factor. Once people foster, they continue,” said Bellamy.
Often a concern is that the person’s pets or spouse will have difficulty adjusting to fostering other pets, she said.
“I think it’s usually successful,” said Bellamy, adding that rescue groups like hers will match the animal to the foster home.
For example, an unknown big dog would not be placed in a home with children.
People sometimes will do their own fostering.
“I think the shelters or myself would want to hear about it so we have the option of helping. I have a pretty great success rate getting animals out of here to Vancouver,” she said. “If they had to choose to bring a box of kittens to me or [taking it] home where no spay and neuter is guaranteed, I’d rather they come to me.”
Bellamy is thinking about talking to the schools and is waiting for a friend who started a rescue out east to compile the necessary resources. Her friend is planning to hold a workshop on educating students and Bellamy plans to go to it and bring back resources she can hopefully use here.
And another avenue for adopting animals is social networking, which has already saved millions of pets every year, she said.
“Before, the SPCA had to save up a huge chunk of money to advertise and now all social networking is all free,” she said.
“We use Facebook to our advantage big time,” she said, adding that potential adoptable animals will pop up on people’s news feeds. Internet users can visit Northern Animal Rescue Alliance Terrace B.C. on Facebook.
Williams said that adopting kittens out of his store has been successful and between eight and a dozen have already been adopted.
He doesn’t get any money for the animals and they’re still free to adopt as they would be at the shelter.
“The response on it is very good. They adopt out pretty fast,” he said, adding he’s doing this because it’s a way to give back to the community and is a service he can provide. Right now, he just takes kittens from the Thornhill shelter but may consider adding the Terrace animal shelter in the future if possible.