Friday, March 30, 2012

Cat Sanctuaries and Other Myths

My uncle died from complications from diabetes last week. He was very sick for a long time so while his death was sad, it was expected.  Whenever someone dies it is always emotional going through their personal belongings but it is also very healing.  Unfortunately my families healing cannot begin because of all the stress involved in re-homing my uncle's cat Jones.

Jones is 8 years old.  He has lived his entire life with my uncle.  While he has made appearances over the years for other family members he was definitely a one-man cat. I have made calls to every rescue within an hour of my uncle's house and none of them will take the cat.  I have been told that an older cat who has only had one owner may take a long time to warm up to new people and will be difficult to place.  I knew this and that's why I called places that marketed themselves as sanctuaries and no-kill shelters. I figured they would give Jones the time that he needed to adjust could find him a nice home. 

What bothers me the most is that the public is donating money to no kill shelters and sanctuaries on the allusion that they are the last stop for animals that no one else wants.  That you should give them your money because they are taking care of those animals that would otherwise be euthanized.  In some cases that is true.  I know that there are true animal sanctuaries that take everyone and give them a happy life even if they never get adopted.  But those places do not exist in this area. 

After spending days on the phone I have discovered the following:

1. Many no-kill shelters only take animals that are highly adoptable and, therefore; would not be there for very long.  If you market yourself as no kill but just don't take in the animals that another shelter would euthanize you are still sentencing that animal to death, just shifting the responsibility to someone else to do it.

2. A lot of animal sanctuaries focus their attention on shelters with a high kill rate so they can rescue animals that still have a lot of life to live.  Because of this, those sanctuaries do not take any animals from the public.  You can take your animal to one of the high kill shelters with the hope that a sanctuary volunteer or worker will notice him and rescue him before time runs out but that is an awful risk to take.   The reality is that these places have limited space just like shelters and stop taking in animals after a certain point as well. 

I have volunteered with animal rescue for 14 years and adopted four dogs and three cats from rescue organizations during that time.  I do not want to give the impression that all rescues and sanctuaries are bad.  This is just about my personal frustrations with rescues in Maryland where my uncle lived and my shock at discovering that things were more depressing in the animal rescue world than I could have ever imagined.

I think of the stories on the news that I hear about people dying and leaving behind dozens of neglected animals.  There are always the news reports that show police and volunteers going into the hoarder's house and rescuing the animals.  They show these animals going to local rescue groups and give updates over the next several months as the animals are adopted.  But what about when it's just one cat.  Those stories don't make the news.  Those animals are often sentenced to death when their owner's die or go to jail but we don't hear about that.  If the authorities euthanized 20 cats that had no major medical problems the public outcry would be immense.  But if they euthanize these cats one at a time from 20 different homes the impact is the same. 

I will likely take the cat the 6 hours back to where I live in New York and take it to a true no-kill shelter in my area.  A place that takes healthy (and sometimes not so healthy) pets and gives them the time and love that they need to have a chance at life.  I will continue to donate my time and money to these organizations and try not to let the experiences of the past week jade me too much.  I will not accept that my uncle's best friend's life ends just because his did. 

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