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This Is Not A Shame Post.

Yesterday I was getting ready to give a group tour of the shelter when someone started banging on our door.

“Excuse me. There’s a bunny in a cage at the end of your driveway.  The cage was too big for me to get in my car to bring it to you, could you help?”

Well, I still had 25 minutes until my tour came so I hopped in my car and sure enough, at the end of the driveway was this:

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They didn’t leave a note or anything but this is an obviously young bunny with a clean new cage and 2 mostly full bags of food and hay.  This screams holiday gift gone wrong, but we’ll talk about that later.  We brought our new guest into the shelter, determined that she was a healthy little girl, and we put her on the adoption floor where my tour group got the bonus treat of getting to name her: Buttercup.

Now this is usually the part where people get angry at the person who did this but this post isn’t about anger or shame, it’s about needing to have a conversation.  So now I’m going to take a minute and talk to you directly, person who abandoned the bunny:

Here’s what I think happened.  You planned what you thought was the best holiday surprise ever but it went south (which is why we ALWAYS ask all family members in a house to be on the same page before adopting and NEVER give a pet as a surprise gift).  When it didn’t go the way you had hoped you felt ashamed that you gave a “bad” gift, upset that a family member was probably mad at you right then, and you just wanted to get rid of the “problem.” I think you figured the bunny would only be outside for a few minutes and that, with a fur coat on, it would be fine. And you know what, you were right.  We got to the bunny in about 20 minutes, she’s safe and healthy and we will get her to a forever home.  But it doesn’t always work out that way.  Just last summer someone abandoned a baby chihuahua in our driveway and it died of heatstroke alone before anyone could get to it.  Yesterday when you did this it was 35 outside but today it was 19 at the same time, more than cold enough to cause hypothermia in a small animal fur coat or no.  Make no mistake, you and your rabbit got lucky.

I understand that it was probably embarrassing to bring your pet here, you had a bad taste in your mouth because of it, and you just wanted to get the whole thing over with.  Moreover, I want to thank you for not abandoning her in the woods where she almost certainly would have died.  However you and everyone out there who may face the same problem someday need to know that what you did isn’t as safe as you think it is.  Something bad could have happened to your pet, something you didn’t intend; and you would have had to live with that for the rest of your life, the way the owner of that puppy will. That’s why we work so hard to make sure that people are aware that we are not going to shame them for surrendering their animal.  We took in over 1,100 animals last year, believe me we’ve seen all sorts of reasons and we don’t judge.  If you have an emergency, just come. To us or, a vet office, or even animal control.  Don’t abandon your pet alone.

 

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Animal Protection Center Celebrating 10th Year By Honoring Bank Of Easton and MSPCA President Carter Luke at Annual Tails & Ties Gala

carter-lukeThe Animal Protection Center of Southeastern Massachusetts will be kicking off its tenth-anniversary celebrations by honoring two long-time supporters at its Tails & Ties Gala on March 9th. The Animal Good Citizen Award will be given to Carter Luke, current president of the MSPCA as well as a sitting member of a variety of non-profit organizations including the London-based World Animal Protection, the American Fondouk in Morocco, and the Thornton Burgess Society in Sandwich, Massachusetts. Carter will be receiving the Animal Good Citizen award for his work supporting the APCSM as it worked to separate from the MSPCA in 2009 and in the years since then.“Luke was always available to offer advice and help when we first became an independent shelter,”says Executive Director Kim Heise, “We were a group of community members and volunteers trying to figure out how to continue serving the area, and he took our calls, helped us navigate those first difficult years, and he has continued to support us personally through the years.”   

 

BoE_2Col_PosiThe Paws For Applause award will be given to Bank of Easton, who has been a community supporter of the shelter from its inception as well.  Shelter president Chuck Givonetti remembers the bank stepping in to help during the APCSM’s early days, “The folks at Bank of Easton have been with us since the start and they always gave us the same customer service that we would have expected if we were a big organization.”

 

The two will be honored at the 10th Annual Tails & Ties Gala, which will be held at Lombardo’s in Randolph on March 9th.  The event will kick off a year-long celebration of the shelter’s 10th year an independent, community-based animal shelter.

Learn about how you can attend and sponsor the event. 

 

More Information About Our Honorees

Carter Luke is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a post he has held since 2006.  Before being selected as President, he was Executive Vice President. Before joining the MSPCA staff in 1985, Luke was the Executive Director of the Dane County Humane Society in Madison, Wisconsin.  He began his career in animal welfare as the Shelter Manager of the Coulee Region Humane Society in La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1977.

A former elementary school teacher, he received his bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, majoring in mathematics with concentrated study in wildlife ecology.  His graduate studies were in the Department of Education at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse.

Luke serves on the Boards of a variety of non-profit organizations including the London-based World Animal Protection, the American Fondouk in Morocco, and the Thornton Burgess Society in Sandwich, Massachusetts.   He has participated in many research projects concerning animal population dynamics, hoarding of animals, and the relationship between cruelty to animals and other crime.

Bank of Easton is  known for local work in the community, has hosted adoption events, sponsored the shelter’s events and outreach programs, and members of the bank’s team volunteer for shelter activities.“At our two offices in North and South Easton, we provide full-service personal and business banking in a warm and friendly atmosphere, and we’ve been serving the local community since 1889.”Meg said.“We believe that responsible banking includes being a good neighbor. That’s why we proudly support and contribute to local events and charitable endeavors through our Town Proud program.” Meg Murray, Vice President of Lending at Bank of Easton, currently sits on the board at the shelter.  

 The APCSM is an open admission animal care and adoption facility, with a focus on prevention of cruelty to animals, education and outreach, low-cost spay/neuter programs and helping animals and people in the community.  With the help of volunteers, community members, and sponsors the shelter has helped thousands of animals find their forever homes.

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So You Think A Pet Is A Good Gift For Your Parents

**  We originally posted this last year but we’re putting it out there again because we want to make sure people know that we should never gift a living thing as a surprise to someone, no matter how much you think they would like it.  OK, maybe a plant, but NOT a pet.  

Pets are always giving to us. They give their love, their trust, their loyalty without reserve. At this time of year those qualities may make it seem like a pet would be the perfect surprise for a special person in your life. Here at the shelter we’ve already started fielding calls about giving pets for the holidays but surprisingly to us they’re not put the way we expected. We rarely get the, “I want to surprise my niece/nephew/boyfriend with a pet” calls here at the shelter. By and large people seem to understand that bringing an animal into a young family or relationship isn’t a good idea unless everyone is on board. No, at this time of year the calls we’re getting are more like this:

“My dad has been so lonely since mom died this past spring and I want to get him a dog to keep him company.”

“Mom fell and broke her hip and can’t leave the house much any more so I want to get her a cat to be with her.”

“My parents just retired. We had a great dog when I was a kid and I want to get them one now that they have lots of time.”

Yup. The calls we’re getting these days are largely from devoted, loving adult children concerned about their older parents. This is a particularly delicate conversation because it’s not just a holiday gift these people are asking for, it’s a chance to enrich the lives of their aging parents and give them something long term to have as a companion. It comes from a place of deep love and a desire to care for one of the closest and most important people in their world. Often the logic is that “It’s not the same as giving a kid a pet as a gift because mom/dad is older and has lots of time.” or, “I know it’s a good idea because we had a pet when we were kids and dad loved him!” Here’s the truth though, it’s NEVER a good idea to give someone a pet without their knowledge. NEVER!!!

Dad might still be grieving and not ready for a pet.

Mom might be terrified that the cat will get underfoot and cause her to fall again.

Maybe mom and dad have their own plans for retirement that don’t include a pet.

But let’s play devil’s advocate. Let’s say none of this applies to you. Let’s say you’re sure, SURE that a pet is the perfect gift for mom, dad, or uncle Bob. OK. Please do this:

Come to the shelter and get a gift certificate for the adoption fee for the animal you’re thinking about. Yes, we do that! Then give the certificate as the gift and use it to start a conversation with mom, dad, or uncle Bob about whether they would like to add an animal to their lives. If they do, great! They can come here and pick the pet that they make a connection with (it might not be the one you would have picked) but if they don’t they can donate the fee back to the shelter, sponsor an animal for adoption by someone else, or even buy a bunch of dog sweaters and calendars (we’re not picky about how they spend it).

For animal lovers a pet might seem like the best possible gift, and it might be. But only when everyone involved is part of the conversation and on board with the adoption and only when the pet owner has been able to meet and connect with the pet in person before the adoption.

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What Do I Do About Feral Cats In My Neighborhood Now That It’s Getting Cold?

The onset of cold weather in New England conjures up images of hot chocolate by the fire and cozy curl-ups with our favorite furry family members by the fire.  For us at the shelter it’s also when we start getting phone calls that sound like the title above. Good-hearted people worrying about the “neighborhood cat” and wondering if they should try to trap him and bring him to the shelter before the snow starts.  If the cat is clearly an abandoned pet or a friendly stray we say of course and schedule an appointment.  If it is a free-roaming cat, that is, a cat whose owners let it go out, we encourage you to let it be -she knows her way home.  (PS: if you’re not sure how to tell the difference between a free roaming cat and a stray we did a handy blog post earlier this year about how to tell, you can read it here). But what about the cats that are clearly feral, have adapted to life in the wild, and both want and need to live outdoors.  What do we do about them?**

Can We Just Bring Them To The Shelter For Adoption?

The first thing we want to tell you is that with 50-100 Million feral cats in the US, according to Alley Cat Allies, a Washington, DC based nonprofit, you’re not alone in wondering what to do about feral cats.  Unfortunately, adoption isn’t a good option for feral adults or even older feral kittens.  Essentially, once a kitten reaches 5-6 month of age as a feral they will always be that way.  These cats are not socialized and will not make good house pets, their brains have already developed to permanently adapt to life out doors away from people. That means that even if you brought that cat to the shelter we couldn’t adopt it out to a family.  The people wouldn’t be happy and neither would the cat.  It would most likely hiss, scratch, bite, and dart out the door as soon as possible, ending up outside but without the advantage of familiar surroundings. So what can you do if you have a friendly-enough-but-not-really-a-pet type of personality feral cat in your neighborhood? Well, the good news is that cats are wonderful survivalists and great at adapting to weather and other challenges. They’re actually pretty good at surviving on their own.  If you’re committed though, all they really need is some passive assistance to help them through the worst of the winter.

outdoor animal shelter
The link will take you to a tutorial for this DIY cat shelter

Shelter

Feral cats often rely on each other for heat and protection during the winter so winter shelters for feral cats can be a simple as a place for them to shelter from the worst of the wind and snow. If you want to make something specifically for them you can see a simple tutorial that the ASPCA offers here.

By and large though feral cats are adept at finding places to shelter for the winter.  Under porches and decks, in sheds or garages, or even under dumpsters.  It’s not a cozy warm house to be sure but ferals are good at staying warm and dry so if you see one and it doesn’t look like it’s in any trouble, it’s probably not.

Food

Cats are excellent hunters and can catch everything from bugs and mice to chipmunks, birds, and a host of other animals.  With that being said, feral cats require more food and water in the winter because they are burning calories  to stay warm in addition to their regular energy output.  Many people choose to put out cat food and water in the winter but you should be aware of some caveats before you decide to go this route:

  1. If you feed them they will come.  And bring their friends. And not leave.
  2. If they get used to you feeding them they will rely on you for food instead of hunting.  Then, if you stop they will go hungry instead of hunting because they’re expecting you to come and take care of them.  You could actually cause them more harm in the long run.
  3. Putting out a bunch of high calorie food in the winter may attract non-cat animals like raccoons, squirrels, or even predators like coyotes and that might cause fights, disease, and other trouble for your ferals.
  4. If you feed the cats but don’t clean up afterwards the neighbors will get mad and understandably so, no one wants a big cat mess of dirty plates and scattered moldy food in the neighborhood.  That could make things bad for everyone, cats and humans.

If you do decide to feed your ferals though there is one big upside, feeding them creates a safe location that they will go to with some degree of predictability and that makes it easier to TNR – that it, Trap, Neuter, and Release.

ear tip
Ear tips communicate that the feral cat is vaccinated and sterile.

TNR

TNR is our ultimate goal for feral cats that cannot adapt to living in a home with a family. The concept is simple and effective, trap the cat with a box trap, bring the cat to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and have it’s ear notched (the universal sign that a feral cat has been neutered and vaccinated), and then return the cat to it’s cat colony outdoors.  The cat lives out the rest of it’s days without creating any more baby cats and with no new population the colony naturally dies out over a few years.

TNR not only controls the cat population without mass euthanasia but it reduces disease and improves the quality of life for the cats in the colony while addressing human concerns about the stray cat population.  If you have made the decision to care for a cat colony by putting out food or creating a shelter TNR is the next logical step to ensure that your efforts don’t go on forever, something both the cats and your human neighbors are sure to appreciate.

If you have a feral cat or even a cat colony visit our resources page for information about MA organizations that do TNR.

What To Do

In conclusion, if you observe a cat in your neighborhood and you’re worried about what to do as winter arrives:

  1. Determine whether it’s actually a stray or is rather a free-roaming cat or a pet that has gotten outside
  2. If the animal is hurt or injured call animal control immediately
  3. If the animal is feral and seems fine, it probably is. Don’t try to bring it to the shelter because we can’t adopt out feral cats. Instead decide how you want to do to support the animal through the winter and then reach out to a non-profit that does TNR for feral cats.

 

**  If you have found a hurt or injured cat please call your local animal control immediately.