Mario is an extremely personable kitten. He was found by one of our foster volunteers. She scooped him up and asked if we would take him into our adoption program. We immediately said yes, but found we needed to tend to an injured foot.
After examining him, we discovered that this was not a minor injury on his foot. It was a fracture. His rear foot was somehow broken and in need of stabilization. Fortunately for him, kittens grow quickly and as a result, the bones usually heal pretty well as long as they are relatively stable. Also fortunate is the fact that the weather quickly got cold after we took him in, and with his young age and his injury, I am certain he would not have survived the following weeks outside, unless there was a very attentive mother cat caring for him. No such mother was in the immediate vicinity when he was discovered.
He is healing very well. His leg is so tiny, I crafted a splint out of a tongue depressor, padded it with gauze, and wrapped it in tape.
For a local Christmas event, we brought Mario to meet and greet the public. He loved every minute of the attention he received! We decorated his splint to resemble a tiny candy cane. Had we done this sooner, we could have named him "Striper".
This leads me to one of the biggest struggles we have amongst the employees and myself at my clinic in regards to strays and owner surrenders.
Animal Shelters usually charge intake fees when they agree to take an animal into their group. The fees are often minimal. We set our relinquishing fee at $35 which we believe is reasonable considering we are helping to ensure the safety of the pet that the people are leaving behind and providing it with necessary housing and veterinary care for the duration of its stay.
The biggest VIOLATOR of this rule is ME. I guess it is a good thing I am the boss, but I may have to fire myself!
We do have those people who give above and beyond our "relinquishing fee" and I thank goodness we have them. But this blog is not about them.
Owners of the pets needing to come into our rehoming service sometimes claim to have no money, despite the fresh pack of cigarettes in their pocket and the car they left running in the parking lot that is burning gas as they spend time arguing with my staff. I want to believe these people are telling the truth. Times are hard for many right now, but I also know that in many situations, the animal is not considered a mandatory expense, especially in an emergency, despite the fact that our fee helps to ensure their pet's health and safety.
When it is a concerned citizen who found a stray or dumped animal, I am blissfully thankful to them for stopping to assist an animal in need. More often than you would think, the concerned citizen refuses to help us finance the care of the animal since they found it and it was not their animal. Sometimes these concerned citizens promise to come back later that day with the fee, but rarely do they actually make the trip back. I understand that if you found an animal, you may feel that the fee for the animal's care is not your "responsibility". But I have some news for you. When you pick up an animal in need, the responsibility for that animal immediately becomes yours. The next decision you make should ensure that animal's safety. Whether you keep the animal, rehome it, or bring it to a shelter or rescue group, you are now the responsible party. If you put the animal back into harms way, it is you who are responsible for what happens to that animal. But many people will argue that point. I fear that these sometimes heated discussions with our concerned citizens may deter them from helping the next animal in need.
A black and white rule is great for a staff to follow, but I have been in this world too long to believe that anything is black and white. The bottom line for most businesses is the bottom dollar. When I try to make finances a priority, not necessarily just for profit but to ensure that I can keep the clinic running and pay the staff to continue their efforts, I find myself being the one staring into the eyes of a dog or cat and telling the owner we cannot take the animal into our adoption program. As they walk out the door, I find myself wondering what is going to happen to the animal after they leave my clinic. I find myself wondering if that animal will be found abandoned in a field after wandering for three days. I find myself wondering if just one more animal in our care really would have hurt.
It is never easy to say no when someone asks for help with an animal. Saying no invokes a feeling of guilt and sorrow because animal rescuers really do want to help them all. If it is simply due to lack of room for the animal, I can only take those animals for whom I have room. When it comes to potentially having room, but having a person who is unwilling to assist us in our efforts, and follow our guidelines, it is extremely difficult emotionally to say no to that animal. The only one that will suffer as a result of a "rule" is the animal. Oddly, I am certain that if you were able to ask a dog for its last toy or kibble to assist its owner in need, the dog would give it without question.
I sometimes forget that I have expenses. These expenses need to be paid in order for us to continue our work. I have an eight year education, a building, and medical equipment to pay for, and a staff that deserves to make more money than they do currently. I will always find it difficult in both the rescue business and in the veterinary business to say no when an animal needs my assistance but the humans cannot or will not pay my fees. I guess that is why I do what I do with the low cost spay and neuter programs, and our rescue work. But I am sometimes haunted by the eyes of those I could not help.
When I look at Mario, I see a pair of eyes we could help. And I am thankful for those.
But "no", is never easy.
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