Taking it to the streets

Within the last twenty four hours, there have been two articles in the media about the record numbers of cats being surrendered to shelters and abandoned.  
from last nights CBC News website
Pet giveaways a problem: SPCA

Online offers lead to more strays
Last Updated: Sunday, July 18, 2010
3:29 PM AT .
The Nova Scotia SPCA says this has been one of the worst years on record for stray and unwanted cats, and the internet must share the blame for the problem.
Executive director Kristin Williams says the number of animals arriving at shelters in Halifax is up 20 per cent over last year. She says the rising popularity of selling and giving away pets online is increasing the demand for shelter space.
‘There’s no such thing as a free pet.’—Holly Stevens, Bide Awhile Animal Shelter
For example, the online classifieds site Kijiji had more than 400 listings under “cats, kittens for sale” in the Halifax area Sunday. Most of those are ads for free cats.
Holly Stevens, who works at the Bide Awhile Animal Shelter in Dartmouth, said people turn to the Internet because they don’t want to pay the $125 needed to get animals vaccinated, checked for worms, and spayed or neutered.
Stevens said many pet owners who get their cats online don’t bother with those procedures. That leads to future health problems for the cats and increases the likelihood they’ll be abandoned at shelters.
“It’s countless the number of times we get phone calls even on a daily basis saying, ‘I got this animal off Kijiji and it turned out not to be what I wanted … and I don’t want it anymore. Can you help me?'”
Like most shelters in Nova Scotia, Bide Awhile is full and often can’t take the animal. So the pet goes without medical attention or is abandoned without being spayed or neutered, increasing the number of unwanted animals.
“They’re not thinking it through,” Stevens said. “They’re thinking, ‘Oh, those cute little kittens. They’re free. Let’s get one. They’re free.’ It’s an illusion. There’s no such thing as a free pet.”
The SPCA says people looking to adopt a pet should go to a reputable shelter where medical examinations are already done.


from this morning’s Herald
Cat influx strains shelter’s limit
Facility extends hours to ease adoptions
By BEVERLEY WARE South Shore Bureau

Mon. Jul 19 – 4:52 AM
Shari Rafuse holds Gonzo, left, and Flash, two of the seven cats dropped off on the front step of the SHAID Tree Animal Shelter just outside Bridgewater last week. (Beverley Ware / Staff
WHYNOTTS SETTLEMENT — The animal shelter just outside Bridgewater is going to extend its hours of operation in hopes of finding new homes for an influx of animals.
“There have been a lot dropped off lately,” said Kelly Campbell, manager of the SHAID Tree Animal Shelter.
“Seven cats were dropped off just last week, which is a huge number that we weren’t expecting,” she said Sunday.
Campbell said an employee came to work one morning and found the cats in a dog crate at the shelter’s gate, “and we had nowhere to put them. If it wasn’t for several of our staff and volunteers who took them home we’d have been in a really tough situation.”
Campbell said the shelter opened in 1985 to accommodate 65 cats, but it had 90 until a few recent adoptions saw that number drop by about 10.
“This time of year there are always a lot of kittens being born so our numbers do go up for a couple of weeks,” Campbell said, but the recent influx is unusual.
Seven of the 10 dog kennels are also full.
SHAID, which stands for Sheltering Helpless Animals in Distress, is a “no kill” shelter.
“We keep them until we find them a home. We only ever euthanize if the animal is extremely aggressive and we can’t bring it around, or it’s extremely ill,” said Campbell.
The shelter has decided to stay open late every second Thursday, beginning this week, to make it easier for working and vacationing families to get there. The shelter’s usual hours are noon until 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
It will now open from noon until 7 p.m. this Thursday, Aug. 5 and 19 and Sept. 2.
The shelter is run by eight staff and 20 volunteers who do everything from cleaning out the cat cages in the morning to walking the dogs and playing with the animals. Campbell said the shelter is in need of more volunteers but those under the age of 14 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
For more information, visit http://www.shaid.ca/.
( bware@herald.ca)
Well then.  While its great to see animal rescue getting media attention … two articles in 24 hours does pose the bigger question of WHY are there more cats being surrendered or abandoned?
Is it the number of jobs that have been lost this year?  The resulting loses of homes? That some have had to move out west to find work? 
Admitedly, Kijiji can claim a lions share of the blame for the ready availability of pets.  Its easy.  Its convenient and there are no forms to fill out.  There are no worries about whether one will pass the screening.
Just answer the ad … put on a good face and Bob’s your uncle.
Do we need legislation to ban the traffic of living sentient beings in the free online ads?  You bet.  Would that solve everything?  Not even close.
Getting articles in the media is a great first step.  Why not take it one step further and get the kitties out where the public can meet their sweet selves.
Why do I keep going on and on about this?  If you look at the comments under either article, one underlying current is that people choose to use Kijiji to source pets because its easy and convenient.
In many cases, they know they’ll wind up spending more money.   But we live in a world where people happily spend more at the grocery store for prepared food items that yield quicker results at suppertime. 
Why do rescues need to compete with that?  I would think it would be obvious:

  • every pet adopted from reputable rescue is already altered and so will be part of the solution, not the problem
  • adoptables are the best ambassadors rescue has … each one spreading the good word to family, friends, neighbours and coworkers
  • adopters often become volunteers or suppporters
  • and of course every pet that is adopted is one more ‘chink out of the market’ for unscrupulous and / or misguided puppy brokers and backyard breeders

At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, the very best way for rescue to ‘compete’ for the market share of the kitties is to hold cat only off site adoption events.   In a world where everyone is looking for the easy road, its the best way to promote the kitties. 
Offsite adoptions are a proven way to boost adoptions and promote animal rescue.   Why?  They make it simple for potential adopters to meet the pets and provide an environment where it is easier to fill out the form and have references checked.  Best of all, rescues that use offsite adoptions have found them more successful than reducing fees.
What time is it?  Its time to understand that ‘taking it to the streets’ is the very best way to overcome the negative urban legends about the difficulties surrounding pet adoption.

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