Cat Sanctuary Provides Help for Families in Crisis

 |  Dec 5th 2011  |   8 Contributions


Jen Badian holds Tiger Strips as Laura Pople examines him. Photo by Jody Somers for <em>Asbury Park Press</em>

With the terrible economy and the resulting chaos and dysfunction, so many families are in crisis today. Whether they're facing homelessness, dealing with a serious illness, or fleeing from abusive relationships, people have all they can do just to keep their own bodies and souls together. Unfortunately, pets are often the forgotten victims of this multipronged tragedy.

As the so-called great recession continues to grind away, families rendered homeless by foreclosure or eviction are forced to surrender their beloved pets to shelters — where they're often euthanized if they're not adopted quickly.

But at least for some felines and their families, there's a light in all this darkness.

Laura Pople had been an American Red Cross shelter worker, volunteering to help in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The biggest heartbreak for many families who survived the disasters was that in addition to losing all their material possessions, they lost their animals too.

Pople decided she couldn't just stand by and watch. In 2008, she opened Seer Farms in Jackson, N.J., and started its Out of Crisis program.

Seer Farms is different from many other sanctuaries. It's a people-centered animal sanctuary, as the organization says on its website, and its goal is to keep pets and their families together during difficult times.

The sanctuary provides a temporary safe home for cats that are facing homelessness. Right now, about 100 cats are living there until their caretakers can return to claim them. They belong to people recovering from serious illnesses, soldiers serving overseas, and victims of the economy or of domestic violence.

Every single day, volunteers and kennel assistants visit each cat and make sure to play with them and offer love and affection. Owners are welcome — and encouraged — to visit their feline friends and be responsible for their veterinary care.

About 80 percent of cat owners eventually return for their feline friends.

What happened to the people who left their cats in Seer Farms' care? I imagine we'll never know. Maybe it's taking longer than they thought to get back on their feet. Maybe the grief of losing their cat friends was so profound that they couldn't stand to go back and visit. Maybe they didn't care all that much in the first place — but somehow I doubt that, considering they made the effort to place their cats in a sanctuary where they wouldn't be killed and they probably had every intention of coming back to get their pets.

One thing is certain, though: Even after the economy fully recovers, the need for places like Seer Farms will continue.

People are still needing to go into the hospital, said Pople. Theres still domestic violence situations.

Most of the rescuers I know have said they'd love to be out of a job. In a perfect world, there wouldn't be unwanted animals and people unable to take care of their beloved pets. There wouldn't be overcrowded shelters where animals are killed for the crime of simply being born. There wouldn't be shelter workers who suffer every day from the pain of having to kill these animals. But it's not a perfect world. Far from it.

Every day I'm thankful for the people who work hard to take care of animals in crisis, who do their best to find homes for the unwanted, and who care for sick and dying pets with care and compassion, ensuring that they know love and kindness for at least part of their lives. All of you deserve medals, because you're heroes in my book.

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