Opinion

Keeping animals’ needs front and center

The Ark Animal Sanctuary sits on almost 40 acres on Old Woodstock Road. It is not an elaborate building, but it is home to approximately 60 cats. There was no budget to start The Ark. It was simply a dream and the wheels were put into motion to make it a reality.  

 

We started out with basically nothing, just people with big hearts who wanted to make a difference.  We gave up our weekends and any time that we could to raise money and clear a piece of land we purchased. Our volunteers worked tirelessly. In 2014 we achieved victory by having a small building donated, which we fixed up and called home. 

Three months after we opened, our tiny sanctuary burned to the ground, taking the lives of 16 beloved cats. Our dreams and our goals were gone and we were heartbroken. 

Not willing to let go of our dream, we started over. We were mourning the loss of the beloved 16 and their memories pushed us to try even harder. Every day brought new challenges but we managed to stay on course. We cried over our loss and we never took one single thing for granted. There were days when we thought we would never be able to reach our goal of having a sanctuary, a place of rescue for those so desperately in need. 

Less than two years later a 3,000-square-foot building was completed, with six cat rooms and five outdoor cat pens — a place for many special needs animals to call home.  This was a dream made possible by the tireless efforts of all the volunteers and also with help from the public. Your donations played a huge part in what we accomplished. We also received grant money.  Every penny was counted and we were on a strict budget. We paid as we went so we didn’t get in over our heads. 

Today The Ark owns the 40 acres free and clear, and it owns the building as well. We are very proud of this accomplishment. 

Why am I telling you this? Perhaps because I want to everyone to know that any goal is achievable if you put your heart and soul into it and never give up. While I realize the hand we are dealt is not always fair and that everyone falls upon hard times, giving up is not an option. 

The sanctuary is not just a building that is there for everyone to drop off pets they no longer want or can’t afford to take care of. This building is not free. It comes at a cost. There are expenses, such as insurance, security system, electricity, phone, snow plowing, maintenance, food and litter, not to mention vet care. We have no guaranteed monthly income, so we set a fundraising schedule in place.

I received a phone call last week from a young lady who said her cat wasn’t using the litter box. I suggested the cat needed to see a vet. Her response was quite simple. She couldn’t afford to take the cat to the vet. After much back and forth and frustration on my part, we agreed to take the cat. I know this is the right decision because the cat needs vet care and I can’t turn my back on that. This cat now becomes an additional expense to our already tight budget.  

In the last four weeks our vet bills are fast approaching $5,000. We have taken in owner surrenders with health issues that the owner could not deal with anymore. We have taken in cats that were living on the streets in below-zero temps. We have had six cats that needed dental care, each one costing $500 or more. 

Do I believe everyone should own a pet? I believe that if you are financially stable and you can afford the care and vet bills, then yes, you should have a pet.  Everyone falls in love with that cute little ball of fur, but when it gets sick, is it really fair to the animal that you can’t afford what it needs to live a happy, healthy life? Is it fair to take it to a shelter and leave it, uprooting its entire life, and just walk away? The fair thing would be not to get the animal in the first place. 

I believe everyone should do their homework when getting a pet. I believe there are legitimate times when an animal has to enter a shelter, but I also believe that there are far too many that take advantage. Most of the time people surrendering an animal fill out the necessary paperwork, but leave no personal items for the cat and no donation to help care for the cat. From the time the animal enters our facility it requires care. We have no guaranteed income but we figure it out. 

I believe everyone should be held accountable for the decisions they make. When you walk out that door leaving your pet behind we put the wheels in motion to make sure this never happens to this pet ever again. We make sure it has whatever it needs. This includes vet care.  

We are asking you to put the life of the animal you decided to give a home to, the one you decided to make a part of your family and the one you say you love a chance at a normal, healthy life. Don’t make that commitment if you know you cannot follow through. 

The cat in question is now at the Ark and he is headed to the vet first thing this morning. We will keep you updated on his situation. We have named him Jack.

Thank you for your continued support and as always thank you for reading our column.

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