Lack of funds and overcrowding are just a few of the issues organizations face, but there are ways to help
Shannon Shafer, founder of The Orphan Cat Rescue of Oregon, is lucky if she sleeps more than four hours at night.
Shafer, like many small animal rescue owners, works full time in addition to delivering his rescue in Dundee. Sometimes she works more than 18 hours a day between the rescue and her other job.
The pandemic has only intensified the already heavy burden on Oregon animal rescues. On the one hand, donations are dwindling as people struggle to keep their own homes afloat. On the other hand, the animal population, especially the feral cat population, has skyrocketed.
“One of the biggest issues this year was not being able to spay and neuter the kittens,” Shafer said. When COVID-19 began to spread, veterinary offices stopped performing all non-emergency operations for months, leaving relief workers unable to perform their usual duties.
For example, rescues could not adopt any unrepaired animals, per policy. With far fewer animal returns, the space quickly filled up and fewer animals could be saved.
Rescues like Shafer’s were also unable to continue their trap, incapacitate and release (TNR) programs during this time. TNR programs prevent the overpopulation of feral cats in communities, which in turn stops the spread of disease and premature death.
When an area is overcrowded, many kittens will die before they are one week old because their mothers do not have enough milk. Kittens that survive can have their own litters as early as five months.
“All it took was a season without spaying or spaying and now we’re in bad shape,” said Shafer, comparing the breeding habits of cats to those of rabbits. “It will be years before it goes away. Easily years.”
Even now, with spaying and neutering happening again, vet offices are backed up as pet owners and rescuers scramble to get their pets repaired. Some places are reserved for three weeks, others for 18 months.
To make matters worse, there is currently a shortage of vets and veterinary technicians, resulting in wait times of several hours, even for urgent or urgent cases. While many rescues are assigned multiple spay and neuter points at veterinary clinics, rescue owners cannot predict when their pets will need further medical attention.
“Sometimes we have to wait three or four hours in emergency care queues,” said Brittany Hazel, co-founder of Hazel’s House Rescue in Newberg. “You can’t do this every day.
Another huge medical issue this year has been the spread of the feline panleukopenia virus, the feline version of the highly contagious parvovirus commonly associated with dogs.
“Everyone in Oregon who works with cats has met him at least once this year,” Hazel said. “It was once in a blue moon.”
When the virus hit Hazel’s House Rescue, Hazel and his wife, Kendall, immediately closed their doors to the public. To keep all of their pets healthy, they spent $ 15,000 to $ 20,000, completely depleting their emergency fund. Trailblazer’s Foods, a jam and salsa processing plant in Gresham, donated $ 5,000 during this time, which helped them rebound financially.
“Once you have it (panleukopenia) in your shelter, you have to shut it down,” said Shafer, whose rescue had the virus last year. “It’s spreading like wildfire.”
Cats aren’t the only animals struggling during the pandemic.
Richard Atwood, co-owner of Newberg Dog Rescue Pawsitively Saved, said most dog shelters across the country are operating at full capacity.
Atwood has seen many adopted dogs since the start of the pandemic, but as the country slowly begins to reopen, many dogs are being returned to shelters as well.
Known as “pandemic dogs,” these dogs are fired for a variety of reasons, but primarily because of behavioral issues. Due to the feeling of isolation, people who otherwise would not adopt animals bought dogs, only to find themselves overwhelmed by the behavioral issues of their pets, who were never trained with them. , months later.
The Atwood rescue routinely removes dogs from high-mortality shelters in California, giving them seven days to be adopted before being euthanized. Atwood said he believes most of them are good dogs and any behavioral issues they may have can be easily addressed with training.
“They are euthanizing the dogs just for the sake of space,” Atwood said. “It’s terrible.”
What help do rescues need?
Many small rescues in Newberg and Dundee are running 100% on donations. When donations run out, owners are forced to pay out of pocket.
“My credit cards are full this year,” Shafer said. She operates Orphan Kitten Rescue of Oregon from her home, with the help of her daughter Nicole Focht. “Only a few donations were made, which is understandable. People have been unemployed for a long time.
Still, Shafer said, a serious medical emergency could decimate his rescue for an entire year. A fire at a mobile home park in Dundee earlier this year almost did just that. Several cats died and those who survived needed serious medical treatment. Fortunately, the community of Dundee came together and helped pay the bills.
Dog rescues are also in financial difficulty. “Most (dog) rescues need good financial health,” Atwood said. “Saving dogs is very expensive. We cannot adopt them for as much as it costs to rehabilitate them.
For example, Pawsitively Saved sometimes spends between $ 2,000 and $ 3,000 for each dog with medical problems. In comparison, Atwood’s adoption price is typically $ 400 per dog.
“The problems they have are perfectly fixable even if they cost a lot of money,” Atwood said. “They are wonderful dogs.”
Saving healthy dogs can also come at a cost. Before Atwood can take dogs to shelters in California, he must pay for their vaccines, health certificates, and transportation. He typically invests between $ 150 and $ 250 in dogs before he even sees them.
Once in his care, the dogs need to be fixed, which costs just over $ 100 when done through the Homeward Bound charity.
“I hate asking for money,” said Atwood, adding that running a shelter is a seven-day-a-week job and that he is looking for a volunteer or paid staff member to take care of the collection. funds for him. “I don’t know the proper manners to go about it and frankly I don’t have the time.”
Atwood also said he’s always looking for more volunteers who are willing to help, even in less fun ways, like bathing, clipping nails and cleaning up after dogs.
In addition to donations, Hazel is also asking people to “spread the word” about her rescue.
“Tell a friend, share us on Facebook,” Hazel said, adding that they are also very active on TikTok and Instagram – and people should follow them.
Hazel has reported other rescues in the area that need help, including the Newberg Animal Shelter, which is still teeming with animals, and ARK Boutique and Rescue, which can use donated blankets and towels.
Every shelter works differently, said Hazel, but “we all make a difference.”
For more information on how to support, host or adopt Orphan Kitten Rescue of Oregon, visit Shafer’s Facebook page at bit.ly/3yIXW5D. To donate or volunteer at Pawsitively Saved, visit the Atwood website at pawsitivelysaved.org. To learn more and to donate to Hazel’s House Rescue, visit Hazel’s website at hazelshousepdx.com.
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