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Area shelters, citizens should support spay, neuter efforts

Date: Nov 6, 2010

Area shelters, citizens should support spay, neuter efforts

Cat Rescue, Adoption & Foster Team, CRAFT, is an all-volunteer, no-kill, 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which for years has been quietly dealing with situations that local animal shelters ignore. Ours is the only group that will physically go into the community to help people with cat situations, trapping/transporting late at night, picking up tiny kittens so they can get immediate foster care, providing cat food to people caring for altered cat colonies, facilitating low-cost spay/neuter and similar efforts.

We track our work, and in the entire region, about 34 percent of the 1,023 cats we helped in 2009 were from Redmond. This year will be no better. Previously, CRAFT helped 450 to 550 cats per year, many from Redmond.

The Humane Society of Redmond has been selectively refusing to accept cats for months, such as agreeing to take weaned kittens but refusing the mom cat. The Humane Society of Central Oregon in Bend is open admission, but euthanizes for space - either the animal someone surrenders or one that is already there. Redmond Humane wants to be no-kill, but it is not right to call yourself that while sending the least desirable animals away to an uncertain fate.

Killing is cheap and avoids many costs associated with vet care, food, staffing, advertising, etc. Glowing shelter euthanasia statistics often show just those animals that were fully adoptable that were euthanized, not the hundreds that are too young, too old, too sick or injured, have what a surrendering owner calls behavioral problems, or are too scared or feral, that aren't counted.

Caring for an animal until it can find an appropriate home is costly, requiring space and attention. Society needs to decide whether an animal with no options deserves a second chance or should die simply because of human ignorance, apathy or inaction.

We have a problem with the fact that Redmond Humane is adopting out unaltered kittens, stating they will make sure they come back for surgery. But if they don't have enough volunteers or staff and have to limit intake, who is going to follow up on whether those kittens are altered before they start adding to the population?
Redmond Humane also has made a big deal in the media about rescuing dogs from California shelters, cute little dogs that are easier to place, while local dogs are being euthanized due to a lack of space or homes.

CRAFT has been trying for years with no success to get the local shelters to coordinate a real effort to reach out and educate the community, spay/neuter pets, and trap/alter neighborhood cats. We are a small group of some very dedicated but tired volunteers and cannot do it all. A real effort at spay/neuter, with the help of veterinarians who as a rule are not exactly generous with their time, is the only way to keep this situation from happening every year. As a society, we can't just keep warehousing animals when 60 to 70 percent of them will be euthanized because there are not enough homes. The last couple of years have been particularly bad because of the economy, with people losing jobs and housing and abandoning their animals, which then become a community problem.

This winter would be the ideal time to concentrate efforts on spay/neuter, before the next kitten season hits full-force. Most people don't notice unaltered cats until they start breeding and fighting, and dead or sick kittens are found, or the first litter of the year starts having kittens of its own in five months. That's when we get the call, and by then it's almost impossible to get the situation under control.

CRAFT receives no tax dollars or government loans, does not have any wealthy benefactors or estates supporting it, nor a profitable thrift store, but is all-volunteer with no paid staff, dependent on public donations. If we had the sponsors and donors that the big shelters do, because we are efficient out of necessity, we could do so much more. CRAFT volunteers are unsung heroes - women, men and children who see the need and spend countless hours helping the animals.

Trapping cats in the cold and dark, working where the residents are hostile, providing care to a sick or injured cat, cleaning litter boxes and mopping floors is not as glamorous as hosting big fundraising events or playing to the media, but it does make a difference in the lives of a lot of cats that have no one else willing to help them.

We remain hopeful that the shelters and citizens will step up this winter with supporting spay/neuter efforts to help make a positive impact in the lives of local animals. Otherwise, we will continue seeing shelters struggling to operate, and no end in sight to the sad problem of pet overpopulation.

Bonnie Baker is founder and director of CRAFT.

This article appeared in the Bend Bulletin on Nov. 4, 2010.