In the past month I have had at least ten calls a week from out of state rescue organizations, as well as many Connecticut ones, asking if I would be willing to take in cats from Louisiana. It took a lot of deliberation and a heavy heart to refuse.
As a result, I have taken some sharp criticism from different corners of the state and thought that I would put my stand in writing and, perhaps, some of my criticizers will understand our position a little better.
Each evening I call back at least five people who have left me a message asking for help in placing their pet, taking in a stray that they found, help in placing a deceased relatives six cats, or help in cleaning up a colony of twenty plus cats.
These are all Connecticut residents who are feeling overwhelmed and not able to cope with the cat overpopulation that exists right here in our own state. As it is, I have to say no to the majority of these people. But every so often when we have had a good weekend of adoptions, I get to say yes to a couple of people in New London County that really need some serious help.
If I take in cats from Louisiana (and I assure you, my heart goes out to these animals as well as their owners), then I not only have to say no to everyone who locally calls us for help, but I also have to take up homes that might have adopted our homeless Connecticut cats. Since there are simply not enough homes to go around for all the stray kitties; I have, in effect, chosen to allow Connecticut cats to be euthanized because they couldn't find a home.
It's not as if these cats in Connecticut are in a happy, safe environment that they can stay in until we get around to helping them. Most are in dire straights. They are being poisoned by angry neighbors, they are having litter after litter and the kittens are dying, they are starving, being killed by cars, coyotes or dogs and colonies are being overrun by disease that spreads through the neighborhoods. People are trying to feed them, but they can't afford to do any type of veterinary care (and that includes shots and altering) so they are seeking help from the local rescues.
The people that call me are angry and frustrated before they even begin to tell me their story, because wherever they have already called, they have been told that they are full from working with Hurricane Katrina animal victims. I try to explain that our jobs in rescue are to give aid and comfort wherever needed - my last large rescue was actually done in Vermont, not Connecticut - and although I have chosen to not take in the Louisiana cats, I am still basically full and can only offer limited amounts of help.
The bottom line though, is that the reasons for saying no do not matter because it doesn't save the lives of the cats in question. It is too true that we who are in rescue and dedicate our entire time on earth to saving cats, actually have a heavy burden placed upon us in that when we say no we must realize that there is a chance the cat in question will lose its life. We also have to realize that we cannot save all the cats and others must also take responsibility for these forgotten felines. But no matter how we rationalize it, it doesn't feel good.
Helping Paws has decided to try and keep some spaces open to help with critical Connecticut emergencies while the country is working towards some semblance of sanity with all of the animals in need all over the country, because of circumstances beyond any one's control.
And my decision to do this is not because I think its wrong to take the cats and dogs from Louisiana. After all, Helping Paws was one of the first rescues in Connecticut to take cats from New York City after September 11th. My decision is based on need. We give our word to help wherever we can - it might just be with food or a voucher to spay a stray - but we will try our best.
We will also encourage people to donate supplies or financial help to the Hurricane victims in hopes that they will be able to care for their pets and keep them in their lives, so they don't have to travel all over the country looking for a new home.
However, all of you need to do your part too - if you call me and tell me you have a stray or were left with your deceased grandmother's eleven year old cat, I will offer you veterinary care, if you will offer the cat a home - because there truly are no other homes for that cat to go to right now, and if you are not willing to take the cat in, then you are also partly responsible for its inevitable death.
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