January 30, 2023

Donna Ziemak holds Lark, one of the many cats patiently hoping for a family and home. Lark has special needs but is affectionate and loving. Submitted photo

OXFORD COUNTY — The economy is on the news frequently these days as people struggle with the rising price of gas, heating oil, groceries and most every other consumable, supply chain issues, inflation and the threat of recession.

What does this have to do with cats and dogs and those who care for them? A lot.

According to a story aired on NPR last July, “You might not see where inflation affects pets. According to Shelter Count, a national organization that collects data on animal shelters, thousands of people are surrendering their pets.”

And when surrenders outnumber adoptions, the shelters that accept these animals may have little choice but to euthanize pets they would never have considered euthanizing in the past.

But surrenders are not the only problem facing shelters today. They, too, have to deal with the rising costs of medicine, food, staff and veterinary bills. Further, the lack of vet services is also becoming a big problem.

The Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry lists 71 shelters across the state. There are two in Oxford County. Responsible Pet Care in Paris and Harvest Hills in Fryburg.

They serve the region as the repository for stray and surrendered cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets and the occasional duck or goose, says Shirley Boyce, president of RPC. The cost of running RPC is around $470,000.  The more animals, the more food, staff and medical expense, notes Boyce.

And Boyce is worried.

RPC is struggling to meet its expenses. Overwhelmed with cats, almost full up with dogs and seeing an influx of stray dogs and kittens, feeding, spaying, neutering, vaccinating and frequent medical treatment needs of these creatures have almost doubled in cost and not only have financial donations not doubled, but staffing and volunteers are scarce as are veterinarians.

Community

Shelters depend on the communities they serve for financial, in-kind and time donations. While in-kind donations do come in slowly but steadily, and RPC has a few volunteers who are willing to give a few hours each week on a guaranteed schedule (such as dog walking in the evenings, cage cleaning during the day) its biggest need is financial.

“Our costs have skyrocketed also due to labor costs and the increase in animals,” says Boyce. “Adoptions are down, due to the economy. People are thinking twice.” Boyce notes this is a nation-wide problem and statistics on the ASPCA and Humane Society of the United States verify the numbers. New York City shelters have seen a 25% rise in intakes and an Atlanta shelter that is designed to hold 80 has 300 over capacity, according to a Dec. 9 article in The Hill.

Further, a shelter in Rumford recently shut down so RPC now received animals brought in by Animal Control from that area.

The community, she says, could help by adopting from the shelter and by spaying and neutering their pets.

RPC receives a lot of community support for its various fundraisers, says Boyce. It holds ticket auctions, toll booths and bake sales, to name a few.  If your group would like to raise money for the shelter, contact Shirley, 207-890-7723 or Pat, 207-743-8679.

Molly Poland and Gerald. Submitted

Donations

The shelter can always use food both canine and feline, puppy and kitten as well as adult, and special foods for sick animals.

“We have even had the food pantry calling us to see if we have an extra food,” says Boyce.

Litter is another need, although the shelter uses wood pellets [manufactured for pellet stoves] for litter. These run about $6 a bag, Boyce says, which is far less expensive than clay litter.

RPC has an Amazon Wishlist as well as a Chewy Wishlist.

Donate returnable bottles and cans. If you live in the Oxford Hills community, bring returnable bottles to Don’s Redemption Center on Cottage Street in Norway. Let them know that to give the money to Responsible Pet Care.

CLYNK for RPC. Pick up special green bags from RPC or Pawsibilities to return your Maine redeemable cans and bottles to Hannaford. Simply scan the code on the label attached to the bag and place it in the recycle box at any Hannafords store. They will send RPC a check.

Donate your unwanted, but still serviceable, household treasures to RPC’s thrift shop, Pawsibilities.

Volunteer

There are many things RPC needs help with, such as cleaning cages, washing litter pans, walking dogs, brushing cats, and doing laundry. It also needs reliable people to drop off and pick up animals at the vet’s for medical appointments. The shelter can always use extra help with its many fundraising events. Children under 18 may volunteer if accompanied by a parent or guardian. Organizations are welcome, but must schedule a time for service. All volunteers must complete the Volunteer Application and Liability Waiver online, or print and mail/deliver a paper copy.

Once application and waiver are received, the Volunteer Coordinator will be in touch to discuss options and schedule an orientation.

Don’t just take your dog for a walk, take your walk for a dog. Go to WoofTrax.com, download the app, and support Responsible Pet Care every time you walk your dog.

Volunteers with experience researching and writing grants are also needed. RPC depends on grants to help. Call Shirley or Pat and let them know you have experience and they will work with you to make sure you have all the information you need.

Kennel Sponsorship: For $10 a month you can sponsor a cat kennel, or for $25 a month you can sponsor a dog kennel. Write “Kennel Sponsor” in the memo on your check or in the “note” section of your PayPal donation. You can make monthly payments or pay for a full year. Your name, or whatever name you might like, will be on the kennel as sponsor.

Medical Fund:  The RPC Medical Fund is not only used for routine animal care and medical expenses like spay/neuters, vaccinations, dewormings, flea treatments and parasite testing, it is also used for major injuries and medical costs. RPC often reaches out with a specific need for a specific animal that exceeds what it feels it can draw from its medical fund as a financially struggling shelter.

Please consider making a donation by using PayPal or by sending a check to Responsible Pet Care of Oxford Hills, P. O. Box 82, Norway, ME 04268.

If funds are sent to support a certain medical need, RPC will keep the donor posted on the progress of that special canine or feline.

Honor/Remembrance Gift: Are you pondering what to give a friend for a birthday? Would you like to give a special remembrance for a deceased friend or family member? Is there a special occasion to celebrate or acknowledge?

When RPC receives the gift form with the information about the recipient it will notify the person designated about the gift. It will also send an acknowledgement of the tax-deductible donation.

You can download a certificate for the recipient to announce your gift.

What to do:

• Complete and print the Gift Giver’s Form found on the RPC website.

• Write a check payable to “Responsible Pet Care” for the amount you wish to donate.

• Mail the gift form and your check to the address on the form.

• Print the “In Honor Of” certificate to announce your gift.

• You can donate directly through PayPal to RPC.

Amazon: Amazon Smile is a no cost way to help RPC. Amazon donates .5% of every purchase made through Amazon Smile to the charity of the buyers choice. Just go to Amazon, sign up for Amazon Smile and choose Responsible Pet Care as the charity. Then whenever you shop, make sure you do it through your Smile account and RPC will receive .5%.

iGive: Whenever you shop online at iGive.com a portion of the total of each purchase is donated to Responsible Pet Care. There are more than 2,300 stores to shop at and many favorite stores are listed. You will save $5 with your first purchase.

Bequests:  Talk to your lawyer about leaving a gift to Responsible Pet Care when you are planning your estate. Provisions can be made to leave money, property and/or stocks to a designated beneficiary. For more information about planned giving call the shelter and leave a message for Shirley Boyce.

Businesses: If you are a business, think about becoming an annual sponsor of RPC. Contact Boyce to find out more.

Veterinary care is expensive. Pet owners know this. But now it is becoming clear that there is there is a shortage of vets in Maine. Boyce tells of a caller who contacted RPC telling it they had found three strays they were willing to spay and keep but they couldn’t get an appointment to have the surgery until August 2023.

“This was someone who was willing to get them spayed,” said Boyce. “But with the veterinarian shortage the wait period is so long. Spaying and neutering is not happening,” she continues, as the prices have doubled.”

Consequently, the cat census at RPC is going up as winter bears down, when it would normally be decreasing.

And households that are new to the area, are finding that there are very few veterinary practices accepting new clients. Further, at the two emergency clinics – one in Lewiston and one in Portland – the wait can turn into hours. One new resident who moved to Greenwood from Massachusetts, was told by the Lewiston Emergency Care animal hospital that they would not be able to have their sick pet seen and they should go to Portland. Arriving at the Portland emergency animal hospital, they were told to wait in the car until called. The parking lot was full. After five hours of waiting, and being told it would be another few hours, the resident gave up and went home.

On the Maine Veterinary Medical Association website, there are ads for 85 openings at veterinary practices in Maine. With fewer than 500 veterinary practices in the state, according to WABI TV in Bangor, 17% of the practices are shorthanded.

Shelters, such as RPC depend on the generosity of veterinarians who are willing to donate a few hours of their time to the local shelter. In RPC’s case, Dr. Kim Karkin of the Norway Animal Hospital is one such compassionate vet.

But with the uptick in numbers, a few hours a week from one Dr. isn’t enough. Boyce noted they could use a few more hours and someone who might be able to help with the ever increasing spay and neuter need.

Boyce had one bit of positive news. On January 23, 24, 25, RPC has booked the state’s mobile clinic to come for three days to run a spay and neuter clinic. The procedures will be on a sliding scale according to income. RPC is starting a list so anyone wanting to take advantage should call the shelter to get on the list or email [email protected]

Care

Responsible Pet Care is dedicated to giving its animals the best care possible and finding the safe and caring homes, according to Boyce. This is not always easy as the shelter has a high standard based on what is best for the cat or dog. For example, RPC prefers cats be kept inside as this is much safer for both the cat and the area bird population.

RPC does not want its cats declawed as this is quite painful for the cat long-term and claws are a cats only means of defense either by climbing or defending itself.

Some cats and dogs need to be the only animal in the home. Some don’t do well with small children. Some dogs don’t like cats and some cats don’t like dogs. Some need special diets, medications or other special needs. All need a loving, caring and safe home.

RPC requires an application be filled out and potential adopters must be vetted. This includes checking references and speaking with the potential adopter’s veterinarian. Are there other animals in the house? Are those animals up to date on vaccinations? These are the sort of questions that need to be answered, says Boyce.

“It’s not fair to an animal to just run them through and adopt them out quickly,” says Boyce. “We have to be careful so they are in a good situation.

“This isn’t an easy job, running a shelter.”

Although the shelter has had rough patches before financially, Boyce is really worried about this one. Not only are financial contributions down but costs have doubled.

“Medical costs are so high now we are afraid we will be forced to become less no-kill because we have no money … .”


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