Preview of Coming Attractions

Over the next several months, I will be traveling across the country in search of cat stories, visiting innovative cat rescues and shelters, interviewing eccentric cat lovers, leading vets and behaviorists and so much more. To view my travel schedule and learn more about my Cat Behaviorist business, please visit http://www.thecatbehaviorist.com/ . If I will be in your area and you feel you have some interesting cat stories to share, please don't hesistate to contact me via my website.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy Endings & New Beginnings:The Humane Association of Wilson County




Three days after Lily's surgery, she was frolicking merrily, as though nothing had happened, only now her brothers weren't chasing after her. All the young cats enjoyed playing with my daughter Allegra (who proves that small children can be great with cats.) Lily's sutures are healing nicely.

Finally the weekend has arrived and I have set seven traps for the rest of the cats, hoping to take all of them to the Wilson County Snip and Tip! Snip--for the snip, snip of spaying and neutering, tip--for the ear tipping that lets everyone know that these cats have been fixed. Catching the friendly cats was easy--I'm not sure how it happened, but Pumpkin managed to escape from the trap (perhaps sorcery? I couldn't figure out how he managed it.) He was gone like a flash and would not let me near him again. I can only hope that he will venture into one of the empty traps tonight--or perhaps give me a second chance in the morning. I also caught a very scrappy old tomcat that had been nosing around Lily before her spaying--that was a triumph because he is truly feral.

The Humane Association of Wilson County is a perfect example of the changes that have happened in the sheltering community during the past decade in Tennessee and many other parts of the country. Their numbers are very telling:

1996 4,697 animals brought in
927 adopted
124 returned to owner
1997 6,192 animals brought in
1,238 adopted
255 returned to owner
1998 5,707 animals brought in
1,161 adopted
235 returned to owner
1999 5,601 animals brought in
1,380 adopted
180 returned to owner
2000 4879 animals brought in
1255 adopted
64 returned to owner
2001 4,598 animals brought in
1,366 adopted
2002 5,713 animals brought in
1,799 adopted
2003 5,012 animal brought in
1,778 adopted
2004 2,355 animals brought in
1,645 adopted
2005 1,649 animals brought in
1,431 adopted

*For many reasons, not all animals that have entered the shelter have been adoptable. For example, some come to us severely injured, temperamentally unsound, and some are reclaimed by their owners. Therefore, an accurate adoption percentage can not be calculated simply by using these numbers alone.

These numbers don't tell the whole story though. Twelve years ago, a woman named Sara Felmlee moved to Tennessee, an animal lover, she wanted to get involved with her local shelter. But at that time, the Humane Association of Wilson County was a grim place. Almost as though the employees were determined to scare her off, they insisted that she observe the killings that could hardly be referred to with the hushed tones of 'euthanasia'. The discarded, unwanted shelter animals were suffering a brutal death. One kennel attendant would hold the fully conscious animal, splaying its front paws to expose the chest, while the other would use a heart spike to plunge a needle into the animals heart, injecting the poison. The animals screams of agony, release of the bowels, the horrors of one painful death after another, prompted Sara to get certified as a Euthanasia technician. This was not a fun job, but she felt that at least she was providing the animals with a gentle, loving and peaceful exit from this world. A vast improvement from the killings she had witnessed. But there came a day when the work was just too overwhelming, she had euthanized over 50 cats and dogs--many of them very young. Looking at the mountain of dead bodies, she turned to her husband that had been assisting her, "If the parents of all these animals had been spayed and neutered, we wouldn't have to do this."

When she approached the board about starting a Spay/Neuter clinic, she was flatly rejected. The members were sure that starting such a clinic would be the end of the Humane Association in their county. The biggest fear was that the veterinarians would turn on the shelter--because the shelter would be stealing their business.

Change is hard--and it takes a determined individual to make it happen. Sara demonstrates how big a difference one persona can make. She applied to the Community Foundation for a grant for a Spay/Neuter clinic, without discussing it any further with the board. Her project was awarded a $110,000 grant from the foundation. When she presented the completed plan--and the money! to the board, all but one member voted enthusiastically for the project. That was nine years ago--and the funds were used to purchase a mobile spay/neuter clinic. A vet and some techs were hired to opperate a free spay/neuter clinic for low-income pet owners. Once a month, they also offer the Snip and Tip--an absolutely free clinic for feral cats. This program has made an enormous difference in the lives of pets in the Middle Tennessee. Here's the link to learn more about their spay/neuter programs:
http://www.hawconline.com/spaystation.shtml

Sara wouldn't take no for an answer. And in fact, the spay/neuter clinic was not the end of the Humane Association of Wilson County--it was just the beginning of many fundamental changes that have attracted increased funding, better living situations for the animals and an overwhelming increase in the number of adoptions.

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