Sunday, May 3, 2009

My Foster Cat Was Adopted Today

This morning, a young couple came to meet my foster cat, Kirby.

In a couple weeks, it will have been a year since a scraggly, scrawny black cat wandered his way into my backyard. He looked rough. He was skinny, and he had an eye infection in both eyes so bad that his eyes were almost sealed shut. At first, I thought he might be a feral cat. But, when I went outside, he ran right up to me, flopped over, and asked for a belly rub. He purred and rolled around on his back, begging for some love. I wondered how long it had been since he'd been touched by a friendly hand. This little guy had no collar and no tags, of course, and he was in pretty rough shape. I wondered if he had gotten lost, or if someone simply dumped him off in our neighborhood. It was clear that he'd been on his own for a while, but he was so friendly, obviously he had a home at some point in time. As much as I wanted to feed him, since he was so skinny, I resisted the temptation, and let him go on his way. We asked everyone in the neighborhood if they were missing a black cat, and of course, no one was. For a couple days, he'd show up in the backyard to stop by and say hi and get some love and attention.

Knowing what typically happens to sickly black cats at animal control, I contacted Second Chance Animal Rescue to see what I should do with him. And so began my journey as an animal foster. We'd considered fostering in the past, but always decided the timing wasn't just right. Well, when Kirby showed up in our backyard, he made the decision for us. Second Chance Animal Rescue agreed to allow us to foster Kirby under their organization.

It took a while for Kirby to learn house manners, since he was on his own for so long, and he was a little wild at times, but over the months, his awesome, unique personality developed more and more. His eye infection cleared right up, he underwent hernia repair surgery, a healthy diet gave him a gorgeous shiny black coat, and he put on five or six pounds. He learned what toys are and learned to play with gusto. He is such a cool cat with cute habits and tricks and he adores attention.

We took him to monthly adoption days, but unfortunately, he didn't do well. The car ride to PetCo freaked him out, sitting in a cage freaked him out, all the strange noises and commotion freaked him out. He acted like a feral cat in his adoption cage. His adorable personality just didn't come out when he was at adoption days, and potential adopters over looked him every time.

I was starting to think that poor Kirby was never going to get adopted. We knew that if an adopter met him in our home, where he acted like himself, he'd get adopted in a heartbeat. But after almost a year, I was starting to think that nobody would ever want him, and I'd end up adopting him myself.

When I first decided to foster Kirby, I was determined not to become a "foster failure." I guess most fosters "fail" and end up adopting a foster at some point in time, but I didn't want to "fail" on my first foster pet. If I ended up adopting Kirby myself, I couldn't be a foster for any other cats. In animal rescue, foster homes are worth a million bucks. They provide a safe haven for an animal in desperate need, and often it's a life or death situation. Rescues can only save as many animals as they have available space for. As much as I love Kirby, my job is to provide him a wonderful temporary home until he finds a permanent home.

I got the call last night that someone was interested in meeting Kirby, and had passed the screening process with flying colors. The young lady and her boyfriend were going to drive over an hour to meet him this morning and fill out an adoption application. After I got off the phone with her, it really hit me: Kirby's getting adopted.

I'm not even sure how to describe the feelings I have right now. On the one hand, the thought that Kirby's not going to be with us anymore absolutely breaks my heart. I love him as much as I love my own cats. On the other hand, I'm so excited and thrilled that he's finally getting adopted! I knew that giving him up was going to be difficult because I love him, and he's been with me for almost a year. But, I am so happy that he's getting adopted!

When his potential adopters drove up to our house this morning, Kirby ran right up to greet them at the door. He immediately started tossing a toy around and acting like a goofball. Then he ran over to the couple and asked them to pet him. The couple watched him and interacted with him for about two minutes before saying, "We're sure!" We went through all the paperwork, and this couple is wonderful! They had already gone through the screening process and passed with flying colors. It's going to be an awesome home for Kirby! I was kind of surprised that I wasn't sad at all during this process. I was just excited and happy that Kirby was getting adopted!

Since Kirby's been with us for almost a year now, he's due for his updated shots, so he's going to be at our house for another day or two so I can bring him in to get his vaccines updated so the new adopter doesn't have to worry about that. I have a couple more days with him, then he's moving on to his new life. That's the part that makes me sad: not having Kirby in my home anymore. I'm taking pictures, and spending time with him. Kirby acts like I'm crazy, fawning over him, taking pictures, and getting all emotional. It's like he's telling me, "Mom, it's cool. Don't be sad. You took great care of me, and now I'm finally getting my own home." Kirby will move on, and will have a great new life, and I will always have wonderful memories of him. Kirby's adoption is bittersweet, but in all honesty, it's more sweet than bitter. I've done my job as a foster, and because of me, Kirby will have a wonderful life.

So, will I do this again? You bet! There are always cats in animal control running out of time. Because I foster, and because a wonderful young family decided to adopt Kirby, I can help save another life.

This poem kind of helps explain why we fosters do this:

Dear Foster Mom

There I sat, alone and afraid.
You got a call and came right to my aid.
You bundled me up with blankets and love.
And, when I needed it most, you gave me a hug.
I learned that the world was not all that scary and cold.
That sometimes there is someone to have and to hold.
You taught me what love is, you helped me to mend.
You loved me and healed me and became my first friend.
And just when I thought you'd done all you do,
There came along not one new lesson, but two.
First you said, "Sweetheart, you're ready to go.
I've done all I can, and you've learned all I know."
Then you bundled me up with a blanket and kiss.
Along came a new family, they even have kids!
They took me to their home, forever to stay.
At first I thought you sent me away.
Then that second lesson became perfectly clear.
No matter how far, you will always be near.
And so, Foster Mom, you know I've moved on.
I have a new home, with toys and a lawn.
But I'll never forget what I learned that first day.
You never really give your fosters away.
You gave me these thoughts to remember you by.
We may never meet again, and now I know why.
You'll remember I lived with you for a time.
I may not be yours, but you'll always be mine.

- Author Unknown

A couple weeks ago, the adoption coordinator for Second Chance Animal Rescue sent out an email asking for help in finding people interested in fostering cats, particularly kittens and pregnant cats. If you are involved in cat rescue, you know that spring means kitten season, when hundreds of litters of unwanted kittens are born, and there's not enough homes for them all. Every humane society, animal control shelter, and rescue organization gets inundated with requests to take surrendered or found litters of kittens in the spring and summer. There is simply not enough room for them all. It's a sad fact that in the Twin Cities metro area, hundreds of cute, adorable, healthy, perfectly adoptable kittens will be euthanized in the coming months because there's not enough homes for them all, and not enough shelter and foster space to save them all.

If you have a spare room and some spare love, you can help save the life of a cat or kittens. While it took almost a year for Kirby to get adopted, it doesn't typically take that long for fosters to get adopted, especially kittens. Fostering is such an awesomely rewarding experience! If you are interested in fostering, please contact Second Chance Animal Rescue at 651-771-5662 for more information.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Minnesota Puppy/Kitten Mill Bill

Sadly, Minnesota has become a haven for large-scale dog and cat breeding facilities, due in large part to Minnesota's lack of regulation of such facilities.

Animal welfare organizations and concerned citizens throughout the state came together in an effort to promote legislation to regulate such operations, in the hope that fewer mills will come to the state, and that those already here will clean up their acts.

Senate File 7, introduced by Senator Betzold and House File 253, introduced by Representative Tom Tillberry, if passed by the Minnesota Legislature, would be an awesome step in the right direction toward eliminating the horrors of puppy and kitten mills.

To read the text of the bills check out these links:

S.F. No. 7, as introduced, The Puppy and Kitten Mill Bill

H.F. No. 253, as introduced, The Puppy and Kitten Mill

From AnimalFolksMN's website, the highlights of this legislation include:

• Licensing
Requires dog and cat breeders in Minnesota to be licensed. A “breeder” is defined as “a person, other than a hobby breeder, who possesses animals and is engaged in the business of breeding animals for direct or indirect sale or for exchange in return for consideration, and who possesses six or more adult intact female animals for the purpose of breeding."

NOTE: The above is often misinterpreted. This legislation applies to breeders who “possess six or more adult intact females for the purpose of breeding.” If a breeder has 5 or less adult intact females, it does not apply to them. If a breeder is not in the business of breeding (i.e. dogs used for mushing or a hobby breeder who breeds for show) and possesses 5 or less adult intact breeding females, this legislation does not apply to them. Hobby breeders are exempt.

REASONING: There is no licensing of dog and cat breeders by the State of Minnesota. As a result, the State does not and cannot know if animals in breeding facilities are properly cared for.

ALSO: The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), per the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), does license some breeders — those with more than three intact females who sell wholesale. Note the word 'wholesale' — breeders who sell directly to consumers through websites, parking lots or classified ads are not required to be licensed by the USDA. This is a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act, considering the fact that many breeders are now using websites. It's also another reason for state licensing of dog and cat breeders.

• Inspections
Gives Minnesota the authority to inspect dog and cat breeding facilities, including both USDA-licensed facilities and totally unregulated facilities.

NOTE: There are 2.5 USDA inspectors in Minnesota to inspect and regulate approximately 220 USDA-licensed facilities throughout our State. These inspectors inspect USDA-licensed breeders and dealers (dogs, cats, exotics and other animals) as well as exhibitors, zoos, research laboratories, circuses and animals transported via commercial airlines. Due to limited staffing and from reviewing inspection reports (available through the Freedom of Information Act), the number of inspections are infrequent. Also, as stated above, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) does not license breeders who sell directly to the public through the Internet, classified ads, parking lots or other means; therefore, there are no inspections of breeding facilities that are not required to be USDA-licensed. Commercial breeders are aware of this loophole; some have chosen not to re-new or apply for a USDA license, so avoiding inspection.

REASONING: This bill will close the AWA loophole. It will allow for additional inspectors and inspections of all USDA-licensed and non-USDA-licensed breeders (except "hobby breeders") by the State of Minnesota, and will, for the first time, inspect facilities that have gone unchecked.

• Enforcement
Gives Minnesota the authority to enforce both State and USDA laws, standards, rules and regulations.

NOTE: There is no State law that gives Minnesota the authority to enforce breeding and care standards.

REASONING: This bill closes the enforcement gap. Upon receiving a complaint, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, a local animal control authority, peace officer or humane agent will be given the authority to investigate the complaint. Correction orders can be issued, requiring a breeder to correct a violation of federal and state statutes, rules and regulations governing breeding facilities. An order may also be issued to cease a practice if its continuation would result in an immediate risk to animal welfare or public health. The State would have the authority to refuse to re-issue a license, suspend or revoke a license if the breeder fails to act on certain orders (i.e. doesn’t comply, doesn’t pay, commits felony cruelty), as defined in the law.

• Penalties
Imposes civil and criminal penalties for violations.

REASONING: This bill creates misdemeanors for specific violations committed by unscrupulous dog and cat breeders. It also imposes administrative penalties.

On January 27, 2009, S.F. 7 was heard in the Minnesota Senate Agriculture Committee which lasted two and one-half hours. Senator Don Betzold (the author of S.F. 7) spoke on behalf of the bill — showing a video and passing around pictures of inhumane breeding conditions, stating the basic problem, and explaining the key points of S.F. 7.

After approximately one and one-half hours of people testifying in support and in opposition to the bill, the Committee voted to “table” S.F. 7. This means a final vote for or against the bill was not taken at this hearing. Instead, it was laid on the table waiting for further action, which means it will need to be called back for another hearing in the same Committee in order to finish the discussion.

For all Minnesotan animal lovers, your telephone calls, e-mails, and letters to your senators and representatives are needed. To find out more information about who to contact, when to contact them, and what to say, visit Animal Folks Minnesota. To receive updates on the status of this legislation and how you can help, please visit Animal Folks Minnesota, and sign up for their mailing list.