Letter to the WCP Editor – 1.31.12

Letter to the WCP Editor – 1.31.12

Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2012 11:17 am

To the Editor,
We have a problem in Martin – too many neglected, abandoned animals.  People dumping animals on the rest of us only adds to the problem. It is NOT an animal problem. The animals are victims of human thoughtlessness and unkindness.
What many people don’t realize is that all unkindness to animals comes back on humans; we always reap what we sow.  
Martin is fortunate to have Red Fern no-kill shelter, with too few, but very dedicated, compassionate individuals caring for far too many dogs and cats and with very little financial or community support.
People overwhelm the phone lines and email with requests for Red Fern to take their animals and relieve them of their problems, but too few people call to foster or adopt a dog or cat; make a donation; or volunteer to help.  
Martin also has several colonies of stray and feral cats cared for daily by a handful of community members and students using their own money for food or to spay or neuter the cats so that the colonies don’t grow.  
Again, some people keep making our work harder by dumping animals at these colonies; of course, none of these people volunteer their help. The cats are not the problem; we humans are entirely to blame.
At one colony, one dedicated caretaker reduced the number of cats to 5 from close to 30 over many years, getting all remaining females spayed and most of the males neutered.  
Unfortunately, in recent months, several kittens (now almost unadoptable because they’re afraid of humans) have been dumped at this site.
More recently, someone dumped a pregnant female, who now must give birth in winter temperatures with little to no real shelter for herself or her babies.  Now we’ll be responsible for their care, and for getting the mother and kittens spayed and neutered, with no funding.
People complain about high shelter adoption fees, but few realize how costly it is to feed, house, sterilize and immunize an animal.  Free or low-cost adoptions result in animals being adopted to be sold to research labs, used as fighting or bait dogs, or returned or abandoned when adoptees decide their new pets are too inconvenient to keep.  
Recently, we neutered a stray cat from one of our colonies, immunized him and cared for a bad ear. A volunteer had this beautiful Persian at home and decided to try and adopt him to a “forever family.”  
Sure enough, we thought we’d found the perfect home. But within only a few weeks, he, like too many pets, especially in the South, became a burden and was shoved outdoors, where he escaped out a gate due to sheer negligence. Fortunately, he was rescued and returned to our care. But he had been better off living in a parking lot under our care than he was in a home with a supposedly loving family.  Now that’s a problem.  
So how do we in Martin solve this problem humanely? First, we change our attitude from blaming the animals to compassion.  Next, we become part of the solution. A youth pastor once told me that it’s easy to complain; however, there’s no middle ground of non-involvement. We’re all always involved, like it or not. We’re either part of the solution, or part of the problem. I’ve never forgotten his words.
The more that community members and businesses actively support Red Fern, help us with the cat colonies, foster an animal until it’s adopted, or donate (money or food), the sooner we’ll make Martin a truly humane community – a model for other small, financially-struggling, rural communities to follow.
If “working with animals” isn’t for you, there are other ways to help –  contact Red Fern, get their “needs list,” and buy a few things for them next time you go shopping; volunteer to maintain a FB page or website for the cat colonies; donate food or start a cat colony food drive; fund raise.
Starting and maintaining a cat food bank for us and taking contributions of food from generous community donors would be a terrific service!
Taking responsibility for completing the paperwork for us to become an official non-profit organization would be a great gift! Securing donations for spaying and neutering our cats would be nothing short of miraculous! And everyone can help by getting educated about animal cruelty and “trap, neuter, and return.”  
Those of us caring for the cat colonies could really use dedicated, caring individuals to help us care for the animals every day, regardless of the weather, people we can count on to care for the animals on the day(s) they sign up for. For our three colonies, it takes no longer than 20-25 minutes total to complete a daily feeding. You’d have to supply the dry and wet food yourself, plus clean water, until we can get a food bank going.  
I did NOT write this letter to solve your animal problem. Do NOT call me if you want a place for your unwanted dog or cat. BUT if you want to be part of the solution to the problem of too many unloved animals in Martin, we’d love to hear from you!  
To help out at Red Fern, find them on Facebook and message them there. To help us care for the cat colonies, contact me at hhuse@utm.edu, or at 588-0833.  
We’re eager for both Martin residents and UT Martin students to get actively involved caring for the cats, especially on a long-term basis. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!
Heidi Huse
Martin

WCP 1.31.12

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