SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 6, 2013

Column: Why we need more animal shelters

Heidi Roberts
The Salem News

---- — It is spring again, and homeless cats and, to a lesser extent, dogs are being noticed in the streets of our cities and towns. Citizens are calling with information regarding the location of a stray or homeless cat or kittens and want someone to jump into action. People are often under the false impression that every city has an animal shelter and people who are paid to take care of the homeless animal population.

Not so. The animal control officers are not responsible for homeless cats.

Who is? Good question! Many cats were discarded by thoughtless owners to fend for themselves when the owner was moving. Many of these cats have not been spayed or neutered, so they reproduced. Their offspring become feral (wild) and not used to human contact.

These kittens can be trapped with humane traps and socialized as long as they are under 8 weeks old. The mothers should also be trapped and spayed and placed somewhere. But where? And who will do this immense task? Are there people who do this for a living? Where are they? Do they get paid? No, there is no one, just a few volunteers who have taken it upon themselves to help. They do as much as they can with limited resources.

And when they catch these mothers and kittens, then what?

Is there a shelter that can take these animals and house them and work with them to get them friendly enough so they can be adopted? Not really, because shelters want animals that can be adopted fast to make room for new ones. There is no shortage of animals that need new homes; many landlords don’t allow pets anymore, other landlords charge pet deposits many people can’t afford, or some people simply don’t want to be bothered with their cat or dog any longer.

Some cats and kittens that can’t be placed often live in a household of a kind person who has difficulty caring for them all and then may be labeled a “hoarder” when all the person did was try and help out people who heard that he or she takes in animals.

This person agonizes over turning a needy animal away. Without the backing of a local animal welfare group who can pay for veterinary care and help with placement, this person soon can become overwhelmed with the task.

Our foster homes get calls from desperate people from Beverly and many surrounding towns who can’t take care of their animals and have not been able to get them into shelters, because there are not enough places. We have to turn these people away, because if we didn’t, we would end up with too many animals ourselves.

Many people want to make one phone call and have their problem solved. They are surprised to hear that Beverly doesn’t have a shelter, and many people only think of a shelter when they need one.

Just recently, two 8-week-old female kittens were found in Beverly. They would have frozen to death if some people had not stepped forward and taken them in. One’s tail fell off due to frostbite. Both kittens are being fostered by a veterinary technician from Beverly Animal Hospital. The other foster homes (all three) in Beverly were full, because they are fostering cats and kittens that need to be socialized before they are friendly enough for placement.

What you can do to help:

Lobby your local government to set up a shelter or sanctuary for homeless animals.

Work with and support your local animal group, such as the Friends of Beverly Animals, to foster or adopt a hard to place cat or kitten.

Make sure you get your animals spayed or neutered.

Contact the MSPCA for low-cost or free services.

Get the “spay/neuter” license plate when you renew your car registration; this supports the spay/neuter fund.

Contact the Massachusetts Animal Coalition at www.massanimalcoalition.com.

Report any animal abuse or abandonment to the MSPCA.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank all our volunteers and supporters for their hard work, dedication and the financial support they have given us in the last five years. As an all-volunteer organization, we rely on their kindness and generosity in order to be able to help the hundreds of animals we have rescued during those years. I also want to thank those people who have stepped up to the plate and taken in a homeless animal themselves. Please continue, and maybe someday we will have a shelter or animal sanctuary right here in Beverly.

---

Heidi Roberts is president and founder of Friends of Beverly Animals.