By JAYMIE L. WHITE
Special to the Appalachian
STEPHENVILLE — The Southwest Coast SPCA has been operating in the Bay St. George area since 2012, trying its best to help as many animals as possible. Colleen O’Leary, who first began a volunteer with the SPCA in 2018, said the focus when she first started with the organization was getting a new shelter.
“Why can’t we take them all? The bottom line is we have a brand new shelter, but we still have bills to pay,” said O’Leary. “Bills that have only gotten bigger after we’ve gotten the new shelter because we have more animals. More animals mean more costs to vet them all.”
O’Leary said the SPCA must make sure the animals that they take in are properly cared for before they can be put up for adoption.
“We will not take animals unless we can make sure that they’re spayed, neutered, vaccinated, taken care of, treated for their injuries and illnesses,” said O’Leary. “That’s just part of what we believe as an SPCA. Animals need to be taken care of and if we adopt out animals without making sure they are spayed and neutered, we are just going to end up with more cats and dogs down the road.”
One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that the SPCA has enough room for every animal they are asked to take in, especially when the expectation is that it can be done immediately.
“Let us know beforehand. Let us help you out by doing a courtesy post on our page that you are looking for a new home for the animal,” said O’Leary. “A lot of the time they will get re-homed that way and if it doesn’t happen, it gives us time to see if we can find a place for it.”
From January to October 2021, the Southwest Coast SPCA shelter took in 32 dogs, 374 kittens and cats, and transferred 120 kittens to other partnership rescue groups. The organization also received funding from the Town of Stephenville to perform a trap, neuter, release (TNR) program for the area’s feral cats.
While that was greatly appreciated, there is always more that can be done, so the search is always on for more funding programs. Fundraising is also extremely important because vet costs mean the SPCA is losing money, even with the adoption fees.
“For example, the adoption fee for our adult cats is $100 but the cost to vet female cats is approximately $300 each. However, if we charged that much, we wouldn’t be able to get as many adopted. We have to give a cost that means we can get them into homes, and yes that means we lose money on every adult cat we adopt out,” admitted O’Leary.
As wonderful as adopting an animal into a forever home certainly is, there are certain times of the year that may not be the most appropriate. The holidays and other special occasions like birthdays are not usually the best times to adopt an animal. There are numerous factors to take into consideration.
“Just think about it. If you’re an animal going into a strange home, away from all the smells they’re familiar with, and they are now in a strange home where nothing smells right, nothing looks right, there’s all these strange people, and now there are excited children coming at you, wanting to hug you and squeeze you tight,” noted O’Leary. “That is terrifying. That’s a horrible way to start your life with a family because that can cause behaviour issues, especially when adopting a puppy.”
O’Leary said pets are a huge responsibility, one that people need to be fully prepared for year round. An animal has feelings and emotions, and is not a disposable toy that can be put aside when life can get hectic.
“Giving a gift of a pet at any time is not a good idea unless the idea of a pet has been well talked about,” said O’Leary. “Puppies can live for at least 13 years. Kittens can live up to 20 years. So if you want to give a pet as a gift to a parent, a girlfriend or boyfriend, it’s something that needs to be discussed beforehand. Does this person want to take on this long term responsibility?”
Except under very special circumstances, the Southwest Coast SPCA doesn’t offer adoptions around the holidays. O’Leary said that people who wish to give animals as a gift have other options.
“One is, complete an adoption form now, and if you’re approved, you either adopt the pet before the Christmas crazy starts or you can wrap up a food dish or toys related to the animal, put it under the Christmas tree, and when the gift is open, there can be a certificate we can give you saying ‘Congratulations, you’ve been accepted to adopt a kitten or a cat from the Southwest Coast SPCA shelter. As soon as things calm down at your house, please come and pick out your pet’,” suggested O’Leary.
Understanding these factors will help people to look at adopting animals during the holidays in a new way and keep them informed as to what is best for the both animal and its new family.
“If we can reach a few people who think ‘I never thought about that before’, and they contact us earlier or later, I think that would be fantastic,” admitted O’Leary.
Despite how difficult it can be at times, the dedicated volunteers at the Southwest Coast SPCA will continue to care for their furry friends year round, even over the holidays.
“It’s a lot of work, but we are doing the very best we can given the volunteers, space and money we have,” said O’Leary. “We are only human, and we can’t do it all. We just can’t. The number one reason we do it is we love animals so much. The second reason is it’s helping all of the communities. Even though we can’t help all the animals that need it, we still rescue a significant number of animals.”