By Mickey Zeldes
If you read this column regularly you already know that I’ve been on vacation the past three weeks. When I travel I love to find a local animal shelter to visit to see what the similarities and differences are. I have visited shelters or rescues around the world: Australia, Peru, Kenya, Japan and Israel. Now I can add South Africa to the list.
While I was in Cape Town I went to see the Cape Town SPCA. I was hoping to visit a private cat rescue too, but time wouldn’t allow for both. The SPCA covers the city and the surrounding areas and serves a population of several million people. Cape Town is a thriving metropolis but has a lot of extremely poor areas around it. Many people have pets and keep livestock, especially chickens for their eggs and meat.
I tried to email in advance to see if I could connect with someone who would be willing to give me a tour and answer questions but didn’t receive a response, so I took my chances and just showed up on a Saturday morning. I was impressed immediately by the size of the place. It’s a huge complex of buildings! They have one building for dog and cat adoptions, a separate building for animal intake (great idea, then newly arriving sick animals can’t infect existing adoptable animals unless caretakers bring germs in), a livestock area, a vet clinic, a wildlife short-term holding facility, a building for their officers, a small pet shop and thrift store and an administration/education center. Sadly, because it was the weekend, not everything was open so I couldn’t see it all.
When I arrived, the first thing I saw was a mobile outreach truck and tables set up in the courtyard. They were holding a low-cost microchip clinic! It’s so cool to note that this technology is being used worldwide to help reunite lost pets. I chatted with one of the volunteers working at this event and she was the most helpful person I found although since she wasn’t staff she couldn’t answer most of my questions. I wandered through their adoption area and watched how staff interacted with the visitors and did adoptions. They were very busy and I saw several animals going to new homes, which was great. I did find out that all animals are sterilized (altered) before going to their new homes and their questionnaire was similar to any I’ve seen in the states.
The place was buzzing and I stopped as many staff and volunteers as I could to ask questions. I met a nice young man who was one of their dog walkers and the cat volunteer allowed me to socialize with a litter of young kittens (so cute and I desperately needed a fur-fix by that point in my vacation). I loved how their cats were housed in very small rooms, each with an attached tiny patio; much like our new kitten enclosures but with an outside area too. The dog area was set up similarly with indoor/outdoor runs. What are the chances that the first dog I saw was an Australian Shepherd! I have been looking to adopt one for several years but we don’t get them in our shelter. Of course, it was ridiculous to even think about adopting from there and they, like us, require that the whole family – including other dogs – meet the animal before being adopted. That clearly wasn’t going to happen!
One of their signs indicated that between all the services they offer they impact over 100,000 animals each year. That’s huge and I hope to email them again to get more information on all that they do. It was good to see all the services they offer but in some ways it was sad to see that they are dealing with the same issues we have. Pet overpopulation is world-wide and the push to spay and neuter is universal. Posters pushed the concepts of kindness to animals and reporting cruelty and neglect. The need to microchip and license to help lost pets get returned home is the same everywhere I’ve been. But it was heartwarming to see the poor people with their pets that walked there if they had no transportation to take advantage of the veterinary clinic and the low-cost microchips that were being offered. Love of animals is something we share with people everywhere!
“Get Them Back Home” Campaign – Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. FREE pet ID tag and a back-up microchip are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wed. 1-6:30; Thurs.-Fri.-Sat. 1-5:30; Sun. 1-4:30.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.