Animal rescues

Animal rescues fear COVID-19 animal shelter restrictions will remain

DRAPER — Bonney Thom can’t imagine her newly adopted cat, Bleau LeBeare, trying to fend for herself as a feral cat.

“It’s awful, absolutely awful,” she said of the woman who found him being told to leave him in the field where he jumped into his car because he was in good health and was probably wandering too far from home. “Bleau would have succeeded only because he is huge. … He could have done it for about a year. But I don’t know if he would have succeeded after that. There are so many other animals there (where it was found). “

The 17-pound Russian blue with a French name made his way into Thom’s home and heart after jumping into the vehicle of two women who trap, spay or neuter and then release feral cats in Salt Lake County for two different rescues.

“We called Salt Lake County (Animal Services), and they said, ‘If he looks good, put him back on and he’ll be on his way back,'” Fernandes recalled. I said, ‘It’s a savage colony, and he doesn’t belong here.'”

The women, who have voluntarily worked with stray and feral cats for nearly three decades, feared that if the other feral cats did not see him as a threat and attacked him, he would be hit by a car or stalked by others animals in the region far from any residential dwelling.

Instead of putting him back in the field, Fernandes and her friend brought him home, adding him to a dozen other foster cats. They posted his photo and biography on lost and found animal websites for two weeks before offering him up for adoption through a nonprofit rescue, Community Animal Welfare Society (CAWS)), who agreed to pay for his vaccines so he could be adopted.

“It’s a huge burden on rescues,” said Fernandes, who also raises funds to neuter and neuter stray cats. “Especially if it’s volunteer foster care rescues. That means we have to post them online, make the calls, and shop around to see if anyone will claim them. We feed them and provide medical care…and it’s expensive.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on nearly every aspect of people’s lives, and animals are no exception. When state government officials shut down businesses in mid-March, government-run animal shelters completely changed their operations, and part of that was refusing to take in stray animals that were uninjured. nor sick. The shutdown also meant that vets could only perform “essential services”, and sterilization was not considered essential, even for wild animals.

And for the past few weeks, there has been a new scare for rescue groups. In at least two counties, they fear COVID-19 restrictions, which have placed a huge burden on a patchwork of nonprofit and volunteer-run organizations, will bring permanent changes that leave cats as Blue in the cold.

“They won’t be accepting stray cats anymore,” Dede Minardi, a longtime CAWS volunteer, said of the potential changes in Salt Lake and Washington counties. “The only way they’ll take in a cat is if it’s visibly sick or injured. They’re putting the responsibility back on the people and the community. … It’s a new model, from what we know. ‘I am told.

Salt Lake and Washington counties said they had not made permanent changes to those virus-related restrictions.

“The St. George Shelter … (will) always accept stray cats, regardless of age,” said David Cordero, the city’s director of communications and marketing. “One of the changes they have made is that on a stray call they will check the cat and look for any obvious signs of distress and if the cat appears healthy, (they) will return the cat to the area where it has been found. This cat will be repaired before putting it back in the field, if it was not already.

Andrea MacDonald and Rachel Gitlin transfer a trapped cat to another cage, then try to use the cat to bring her kittens closer to trap them as well, in western Jordan Monday, July 13, 2020. After being trapped, the cats are neutered or neutered and then released back to the places where they were captured.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

In Salt Lake County, spokeswoman Callista Pearson said they are adhering to pandemic protocols set out by the National Animal Care and Control Association.

“So the one thing we don’t bring in is healthy stray adults who don’t have IDs, that is, community cats, who don’t have owners. and live comfortably outdoors,” Pearson said. “Currently we have 184 cats in the shelter and in foster homes.”

Jessica Vigos, who started Mustaches in 1991 to help older, special-needs and medically fragile cats, said the restrictions make a difficult problem even worse, as many shelters don’t take stray cats or only take them by appointment.

“How do animals return to their owners?” she says. “Where are the places where people can look for their lost pet? They welcome dogs. They’re both domesticated animals, and I think it’s very strange how differently cats are treated.

She said that without shelters as a clearinghouse for lost or stray animals, families who lose a pet must navigate the state’s 54 animal rescues and various social media or online search sites.

As for when operations might return to pre-pandemic restrictions, Pearson wasn’t sure.

“I can’t say when we’ll resume straying, but as the risk of COVID is still very real, we’re still working with reduced staff,” she said. “Because we have fewer staff here every day, we are unable to appropriately and adequately care for the volume of animals that we used to be. There’s a hiring freeze, big budget cuts, we’re going to be understaffed for a while. Once we are better staffed, we can implement expanded programming.

COVID-19 restrictions have made a complicated situation even more confusing.

Andrea Nelson found another cat now in the care of CAWS, Lady Di, who was obviously sick or blind when she wandered into Nelson’s yard on June 26.

“We told them that we thought the cat was pregnant, running around, sick and acting like he couldn’t see,” Nelson said. “It was just heartbreaking. … They told us to release the cat.

Fernandes saw a Facebook post about Lady Di and reached out on Nelson’s behalf. A dispatcher told her someone would pick up the cat that day, but by midnight no one had come. Instead, Fernandes found the cat in foster care through CAWS, which again pays for the cat’s medical needs.

“I think Lady Di will have a happy ending like Bleau, but it takes a lot of resources,” Fernandes said. “We all go crazy trying to take care of cats that shelters won’t accept.”

Pearson admitted that Lady Di’s case had been “mishandled”.

“There has been a communication and information breakdown between the agencies involved, the VECC (dispatch) and animal control,” she said. “In the end, an animal control officer should have picked up the cat because he was sick. … Our agency will continue to work to resolve this communication problem.

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A skunk eats food left in a feral cat trap in western Jordan Monday, July 13, 2020. After being trapped, the cats are neutered or neutered and then released back to the places where they were captured.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News