The humane attitudes and actions toward living things preserves and strengthens our national heritage and the moral values we champion in the world. These were the expressed ideals of John F. Kennedy. The important task to widen our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and whole of nature and its beauty were the thoughts of Albert Einstein. Gandhi stated that the greatness of a nation and its moral progress could be judged by the way its animals are treated and the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man. Charles Darwin said that there is no fundamental difference between man and animals in that they feel pleasure, pain, happiness, and misery and that sympathy for animals is one of the noblest virtues with which man is endowed. Saint Francis of Assisi declared that when we exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, we will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. Many cultures around the world have voiced these sentiments throughout the ages, telling us that mankind has the capacity to be cruel, indifferent, and compassionate, with consequences to whatever path is chosen.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, today across our country we have an epidemic of homeless and neglected cats and dogs. In many cases pet owners do not have their pets spayed or neutered, causing populations to explode without enough homes to properly care for the offspring. Left to fend for themselves, feral, or wild, colonies of cats emerge which are then in danger of spreading disease. Some pets are merely abandoned when an owner decides he or she cannot take care of them anymore. There are cases where these pets have been left in empty houses, left outside the house, dropped off in other neighborhoods, and even expelled from a moving car. Misguided, people think the animal will be able to live off mice and somehow make its way in life. Sadly, this is not the case. In many cases they live a very short life in misery without food or shelter. Domesticated long ago, they need care and love.
Well-known organizations such as the Humane Society and the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) have worked for years to educate the public about the plight of animals and provide shelter to animals with the goal of adoption to responsible families. The Westfield Stray Cat Rescue organization is one group in the northern part of Chautauqua County that works to ease the burden of homeless animals and relieve their suffering. Begun about six years ago, its current location for nearly a year has been on 59 E. Main St. in Westfield. Before this time, three women named Judy Loomis, Celeste Kerns and Hilda Spann were originally volunteers at a local dog rescue. However, people would also drop off cats that the shelter really couldn't handle. Some cats were adopted, while others were put in foster care, which were really the homes of Loomis, Kerns and Spann. As time passed, it was evident that they had to get a building to adequately rescue cats in need of homes.
Zoe is one playful and lovable cat looking for a forever home.
See RESCUE, Page C2
The Westfield Stray Cat Rescue organization sought donations and worked to eventually open its doors at its current location. With a capacity of 25 cats at a time, they take in stray cats. These are cats that are not feral, but homeless from abandonment or being lost. Sometimes these are adult cats and at other times a litter of kittens when the mother has been killed. If there is space at the rescue facility, the cats are checked for disease such as feline leukemia. If free of disease, they are given their first shots and then spayed or neutered. Run by volunteers, daily care includes feeding, cleaning, and of course socializing. People seeking to adopt are able to come and meet the cats. A room called "Kitty Land" is an area where the adopter and adoptee can interact until a "purrfect" match and companion is found. Some short but important paperwork is completed to help insure a successful adoption. It is essential that pet owners have permission from a landlord if renting, have determined that the cat will fit in with any other pets in the home, will provide proper veterinary treatment in the future, and will in short, provide a loving and forever home. The nominal adoption fee of $40 helps to defray the cost of getting the cat ready for adoption, which is about $130.
Costs to run the rescue not only include veterinary costs, but also food and equipment for the cats, as well as utilities and mortgage on the building. This is where The Thrifty Kitty helps in the rescue effort. A second-hand store on the first floor of the building, its funds are used to help cover expenses. It's also a resource where people can purchase many goods for their homes at very reasonable prices. Regular customers say the store is a fun and friendly place to socialize and talk. The store is also one less empty store front along the small towns of Route 20 and with its old-fashioned windows, is reminiscent of the old days when all stores were "window dressed" advertising goods for sale in fun and creative ways.
Anna Sewell, the author of "Black Beauty," said that "if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and we do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt." Judy Loomis, one of the key players in the rescue organization, said they "would love to go out of business," meaning there would not be any cats in need of rescuing.
Not a scenario in the foreseeable future, to help the Westfield Stray Cat Rescue, people can do a number of things. You can adopt a cat and give it a good home. You can volunteer in caring for the cats. You can donate (during store hours) items for the store. You can shop at the store. You can give cash donations and even provide it through memorials.
Call 326-2404 for more information about adopting or helping. Store hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cats ready for adoption and information can also be found on Facebook and www.WestfieldStrayCatRescue.com.
Pets can become great companions and are looking for love as seen in last week's column, "How midnight came to be," a rescued cat helped through Westfield. Make it a good week and be kind to our animal friends.
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