Okey gives back – helping out the Greentown cats

Okey white cat drawing
Drawing by Artist BZTAT

It is widely known that Okey, the cat who inspired this blog and the entire Okey’s Promise project, was rescued from a parking lot in downtown Canton, OH. Less known is that the actual rescue took days and was a very delicate process.

I have taken in stray cats many times in my life, but they always found their way to me, so taking them in was easy. Not so with Okey. She was scared and had obviously had bad experiences with humans. My first attempt to grab her left me with numerous scratches and with her becoming doubly wary of me.

I knew I needed help. So I called my friend Jill who runs a small animal rescue Cripple Creek Ferals & Friends. Jill provided me with a live trap and coached me through the process of earning Okey’s trust. It took a few days, but I finally found her in the trap, and brought her inside for a gradual integration with my other cats.

Now, we are a happy family! Okey has become pals with the other cats and has really made our lives very full. She still is timid and skittish at times, showing her continued fear of humans, but when things are on her terms, she is very loving. We are very grateful to Jill for helping make our family complete.

So we have decided to give back to Jill and Cripple Creek Ferals and Friends.

Jill is in the process of rescuing 2 large groups of  cats. The first group was at a home of a couple who simply lost control of their feline population and it grew out of control. Jill and other volunteers began the rescue at the request of family, and in the midst of the rescue, the house caught fire.

The woman was seriously injured in the fire. The man had already been placed in a nursing home and was no longer in the home. (Read local news about the fire and cat rescue.) It appears that the cats that were in the home survived by escaping into the garage that did not burn. Now Cripple Creek Ferals & Friends are tasked with managing, assessing, vetting and finding homes for all these cats. You can follow updates on the cats and learn adopting them at Cripple Creek’s Petfinder page.

I have done a small fundraiser by donating the proceeds of an art auction to Cripple Creek. I also asked my friend Caroline Golon from The Happy Litter Box if she could help getting some litter donated for the cats. Boy did she come through! Caroline contacted the great folks at The World’s Best Cat Litter, and they agreed to donate a month’s supply of litter for 25 cats!

But wait, there’s more!

After receiving some local press for her efforts to rescue the Greentown Cats, Jill was contacted by another person needing help with a completely different colony of feral cats. Jill has agreed to help trap these cats, get them spayed and neutered and then release them where they will be maintained by the woman who contacted her. Each cat’s vetting costs at least $45, so Cripple Creek Could really use some extra resources.

Cripple Creek Ferals & Friends is not a large rescue group, but they are top notch, and I have no doubt that they will find a way to give these cats the best. A Chip-in has been created by the wonderful NipClub folks, who will be featuring them as their charity for tonight’s weekly Twitter “pawty” to raise funds for animal rescue. I have added the Chip-in to the sidebar to the right.

I hope you will consider lending your support to Cripple Creek Ferals and Friends. Every little bit helps. Thanks!




Pet Evacuation in Emergencies

I remember a particularly harsh winter from my youth that was not unlike the one many of us in the United States have experienced this year. Growing up in rural Liberty, MO, snowstorms were not unusual, but the ice storm that I recall from “that” year was an unusually rough one. We were without heat and power for 5 days. My father rented a kerosene heater that you could only fire up once an hour. I am sure that it would not have met today’s safety standards.

Pyewacket, our cat, was miserable, as he had to be corralled those 5 days in the one room that served as our shelter with a doberman and 2 dachshunds. But he had his people with him.

I don’t know if anyone offered our family shelter from the cold – this was 40 years ago – but I doubt we would have gone to a shelter if it was available. We wouldn’t have left Pyewacket, Dober, Snoopy and Baron behind.

Fast forward to today.

Canton, OH, the county seat of Stark County, is now my home, and the city is in its second day of recovery from the Ice Storm of 2011. Canton’s mayor declared a state of emergency in the early morning hours while the storm had us in its grasp. By later in the morning, over 55,000 electric customers were without power. Tree limbs were down all over the city, dragging power lines with them.

The Canton Repository bragged about Canton and Stark County’s emergency response. Except for one thing. Two shelters were set up for people to come out of the cold and unsafe conditions, but if you had pets, too bad.

The emergency shelter doesn’t take pets unless it is a certified medical assist dog, said Melissa Seibert, shelter manager and medical supervisor at the civic center. She suggested people call their veterinarian or another boarding facility to see if they will take pets in an emergency. – Canton Repository, 2/2/11

I suspect that Canton is not unlike most cities. Despite the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, most communities still fail to include pets in their disaster and evacuation preparedness planning. When the crisis hits, people with pets are faced with either leaving their pets behind to face dangerous conditions, or risk their own lives to ensure their pets’ safety. If you read the article mentioned above, you will see that a woman in Canton chose the latter, seeking shelter for her cat that was not readily available.

I ask our intrepid shelter manager/medical supervisor: How are people supposed to call around for pet shelter when they have no power and phone lines are down too? Are they supposed to flip through the yellow pages by candlelight, making calls on their cell phone, when the battery is dying because there is no power source to recharge it?

Why haven’t our disaster preparedness teams made contingency plans in advance for pet evacuation in emergencies? Isn’t that what the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS Act) compelled them to do?

I am disappointed in my community. Luckily, we are rebounding from this “disaster” pretty rapidly, but what if a more widespread and devastating crisis occurs?

Some may say that animals are not as important as human beings when a true disaster occurs. I won’t debate that issue. I will say, however, that, regardless of your belief about the importance of animals, many people consider their pets family. An emergency is no time to try to convince them otherwise. They will risk their own lives to ensure their pets’ well being.

By failing to care for animals, we put humans at risk.

It is the same problem for families caught up in a perpetual cycle of crisis sparked by domestic violence. Many families remain in dangerous situations because care for their animals is not available.

Whether you are an animal advocate or not, surely you must see the necessity of caring for animals in order to care for the people who love them when they are faced with dangerous circumstances. We can, and we must, do better.

If not for our creatures, for ourselves.