RosevilleSeptember 12, 2012
Local cats being abandoned at alarming rates
By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer
ROSEVILLE — It’s just a few minutes after 9 a.m. on a hot August morning, and Gabrielle Jacobs is finishing up her store-opening duties at the Petco in Roseville when an SUV pulls into the parking lot headed straight for the store.
Just before reaching the front of the store, the SUV makes a sharp turn. Now driving parallel to the door with its passenger wheels on the sidewalk, it slows down to a creep. The automatic doors to the store slide open.
A box tossed out of the passenger door comes gliding into the store.
“It was a cardboard box all taped up and twined up,” Jacobs said.
She and a couple co-workers immediately went to the box and started cutting off the twine and tape that sealed it. They knew what they’d find inside. Similar boxes have been getting left in front of the store all summer.
“It’s not like it was the first time we’ve seen that, so we hurried to open it, and inside there was the sweetest white cat,” Jacobs added. “She was front declawed and litter trained. She had been someone’s pet.”
That morning, like on other mornings when similar packages have been left, Jacobs called Melanie Wittner. Wittner runs A Hopeful Heart Animal Rescue out of her Roseville home.
Wittner’s rescue provides medical treatment for abandoned and abused cats and dogs, and finds foster homes for the animals to reside in while waiting to be adopted. This summer has been a busy one for her.
“Cats have been getting left in boxes in front of the pet stores,” Wittner said.
“Last week, there were two cats that were left at the Eastpointe Petco, two cats that were left at the Roseville Pet Smart and two cats that were left at the Roseville Petco. That’s six cats in one week. There’s been over 20 in the last month.”
Wittner has even had cats left on boxes at her home.
“I got a cat in a box once recently,” she said. “On the box it said, ‘has allergies – must re-home.’ They didn’t say what kind of allergies. I assumed flea allergies. They are common. So I gave her some flea drops and brought her home and put her on a regular diet. Well, the poor cat lost almost all her hair because she was allergic to the grain in the cat food.”
The cat is doing just fine now, but for Wittner it exemplifies exactly why cats shouldn’t just be abandoned, especially when there are rescues like hers that don’t charge fees for taking in animals.
“If you are going to give your pet up, you shouldn’t just leave it — you should talk to somebody,” she said. “When I get these cats, it’s sad, because I don’t know anything about them. I don’t know how old they are, what vaccines they’ve had.”
It’s illegal to abandon an animal — people who do can be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to $500 in fines, but despite the law, Wittner is taking in more abandoned pets than ever.
She follows the same protocol with all the animals she takes in — she takes them to a vet to be spayed or neutered, provides flea and heartworm treatment, makes sure they are up-to-date on vaccines, and then places them in a foster home where their temperament can be monitored.
It’s not a cheap process.
“It usually costs about $165 to have all their vet work done, and if we are lucky, we will get a $95 adoption fee for them, if they can be adopted out,” Wittner said. “We are always in debt. Rescues like mine are funded through donations and adoption fees.”
With the sharp increase in abandoned animals, Wittner isn’t only struggling with the cost to care for them all, but with finding enough foster homes for them to be placed. Most cities have a limit on how many animals can be kept in a home.
In Roseville, it’s three cats and three dogs. Wittner, like many of the many foster homes she utilizes, is at capacity.
“We are always looking for fosters,” she said. “We have two pregnant cats — they are like piñatas — we don’t know what is going to come out in a month.”
In addition to foster parents, A Hopeful Heart is also seeking donations — any kind of donations — money, food, litter, dog beds, toys, cages, gas cards.
“We are running into the problem now where adoptions are slow, and without adoptions, we don’t have money coming in,” she said.
To help with the cost, Wittner is working with employees from the Roseville Petco on a fundraiser scheduled for Sept. 15. She’s hoping it will bring in funds and supplies.
“It’s a rally to the rescue event,” she explained. “We’ll be selling T-shirts and collecting used (or new) cat items.”
The details for the fundraiser were still being worked out at press time, but more information on it can be obtained by contacting Petco at (586) 294-0519.
For information on donating to A Hopeful Heart Animal Rescue or to apply to be an animal foster parent, contact Wittner at (586) 260-0650.
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