By Katina Caraganis
LUNENBURG — A local animal shelter is warning people who want to get rid of their animals: Don’t dump them on the side of the road, and don’t leave them on a shelter’s doorstep.
Instead, take the necessary humane steps to give them up.
Clarisse Youmell, a volunteer with the Pat Brody Cat Shelter, said the shelter has been experiencing a higher than normal number of people abandoning their cats on their front steps.
The cats, usually left when the shelter is closed, are usually in cat-carrying cases, but by the time volunteers open up, the cat has fled the case and run into the woods, an unfamiliar area teeming with wild animals, said Youmell.
“There is absolutely no reason you should take another living being, put it in a box and leave it somewhere,” Youmell said earlier this week by telephone.
The shelter has been discovering at least one abandoned cat a week for a month, she said, and the shelter is at capacity and can’t take in any more stray cats.
The shelter can accommodate up to 75 cats, she said, but all new arrivals must be placed in quarantine for three weeks before they are placed with other cats. During this period of time, the appropriate tests are given to ensure that diseases are not passed on to the other cats, she said.
Youmell says people are afraid to ask for help.
“They’re afraid someone is going to scold them. They’re already feeling bad about the situation, but we don’t judge anyone,” she said.
If the Lunenburg shelter is at capacity, Youmell and her volunteers refer individuals to other shelters that may have openings.
“We really feel strongly that if you’ve taken the responsibility for another creature in this world, you need to care for them,” she said. “We all share this planet and there are creatures who are just dumped. Too many cats, not enough homes. Too many animals and too many people buying pets from pet stores and not thinking about adoption.”
As a no-kill shelter, Youmell said all cats in their care stay happy, healthy and fed until they are adopted.
“People think they can just put a cat in a box and drop them off. They think they’re disposable,” said Youmell. “Cats have no life skills and have no idea what’s going on.”
Marissa Mascitti, an adoption counselor at the Sterling Animal Shelter, said she hasn’t seen an increase in animals being left outside the shelter but cautioned that it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
“I’ve been here for almost six years and it’s always the same thing,” she said. “Do people call us all the time asking if we have space available? Absolutely. I understand people are going through difficult times and being able to afford an animal is hard, but to me it’s the same ongoing issue.”
Sterling is constantly taking in rescue dogs from the South, she said, but currently they have space for other dogs if people are in trouble. However, she added, the cat portion of the shelter is at capacity.
Mascitti said if people need a safe place to drop off animals, she encourages them to call shelters and at least get on a waiting list.
She said the website petfinder.com is also a useful resource for people because they can post information about their cat and connect with people who are looking to adopt.