Posts Categorized: Rescue U

Rescue U Turns a Former Schoolhouse Into a Cat Sanctuary

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A volunteer with her favorite cat

In May, Rescue U volunteers from Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia headed to Grafton, W.V., to renovate a cat shelter called P.U.R.R. (People United for Rescue and Rehabilitation) West Virginia. P.U.R.R. is housed in an enormous former elementary school that needed a lot of renovation. Projects included painting, organizing and hanging fiberglass, as well as some fairly heavy construction work.

The team replaced the shelter’s entryway with a new porch after the existing porch, which had been held up with wood that rotted over the years due to water damage, collapsed. Volunteers also created a new storage room and built a new loading entrance to it. A section of the brick wall had to be demolished in order to install a new door.

To create the storage room, the team removed 7,500 pounds of scrap metal from an old schoolroom and built a ramp leading up to the entrance (the scrap metal was recycled and the proceeds went to the shelter!). Volunteers demolished its bathrooms to create a cat intake area, removed the railings from the sidewalk outside the new room and expanded the sidewalk to allow shelter staff to move supplies in via pallet jack.

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The artists’ studio that became a cat colony

An old artists’ studio was cleared of debris, its walls scraped, repaired (P.U.R.R. owner Sarel Venter strapped on stilts to plaster hard-to-reach spots) and painted a “purplicious” color to create a new cat colony room.

The major renovations to the shelter have made life easier for the shelter staff and volunteers, and most importantly, more comfortable for all the adoptable cats. As P.U.R.R. wrote on its Facebook page: “Pawesome job at P.U.R.R., Rescue U volunteers!!”

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A volunteer makes some new friends.

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Mars Petcare Staffers Compete to Help Tucson Shelter Pets

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Humane Society of Southern Arizona resident Jenna enjoys a toy and leash courtesy of Mars Petcare.

Shelter life can be stressful for dogs like Jenna, an energetic young Boxer mix who’s been returned several times to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona (HSSA) in Tucson. That’s why the Petfinder Foundation is working with Mars Petcare to give pets like her toys, treats and other enrichment supplies to help them stay healthy and happy until they find the right family.

The HSSA, Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) of Tucson, In the Arms of Angels of Green Valley, and Pinal County Animal Care and Control of Casa Grande benefited from a recent friendly fundraising competition that we organized for 200 Mars Petcare employees.

Mars Staffer Hula Hoops

A Mars staffer hula hoops for pets.

The Mars staffers broke into four teams of 25, each competing for a different organization in events such as a hula-hoop contest and leash-making competition.

The whole thing was a fun way for Mars employees to give back and for the Petfinder Foundation, which is based in Tucson, to support local adoption groups.

All four organizations received cash grants, along with leashes, cat scratchers, dog toys and pet food. The first-place winner, the HSSA, received a $1,000 grant; In the Arms of Angels received $500; and PACC and Pinal County Animal Care and Control each received $250.

Mars Petcare staff members competed to see who could make the most leashes.

Competing to see who can make the most leashes

“The Humane Society of Southern Arizona is so grateful for the wonderful donation and will be using the money to help care for our animals by providing vaccinations, food, enrichment and spay-and-neuter surgeries,” HSSA PR Coordinator Sara Gromley tells us. “It is especially helpful during litter season, when we need extra support to care for our little ones.”

PACC Adoption Coordinator Ellie Beaubien says the shelter will use its grant to buy leashes and cat carriers, which adopters are currently required to provide if they want to adopt from the county facility. Providing these to adopters will make the adoption process more convenient, Beaubien says (PACC will raise its adoption fees slightly so the program can continue).

Pear Eats Donated Food

Pima Animal Care Center resident Pear (now adopted!) enjoys her Temptation treats and canned Sheba food.

As a government-funded shelter, PACC just hadn’t had the money it needed to implement this relatively inexpensive but lifesaving policy. “This [grant] gave me the opportunity to provide something important to adopters,” Beaubien says.

Donate now so we can help shelters save more lives.

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A Shelter Renovation is the Key to Getting Pets Adopted

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The Petfinder Foundation‘s program assistant and resident photographer-videographer, Brody Anderson, spent last week in Tavares, FL, documenting Rescue U  ‘s renovation of Lake County Animal Services. He sent back this report:

This cat at Lake County Animal Services in Tavares, FL, will enjoy a new outdoor enclosure.

“I was fortunate enough to be a part of Rescue U’s January project at Carolina Waterfowl Rescue in Indian Trail, NC, so I thought I had a good idea of what I would witness at the Tavares build. The shelter would undergo a series of improvements with the intention of enriching the lives of the pets living there. Happy, healthy pets have a much better chance of finding forever homes.

“During the course of my visit, I had the opportunity to speak with the shelter’s animal services director, Marjorie Boyd. As our conversation progressed, I began to truly understand the impact the project would have for the shelter’s pets.

Zeus (left) and his sister Princess were both adopted during the Rescue U renovation.

“Marjorie was very excited about the new meet-and-greet yard. Families will now have a chance to spend quality time with the dogs, in the sun and away from the noisy kennel environment. With their stress levels lowered, each dog will have the chance to impress adopters. The majority of the shelter dogs were well-behaved, and many knew tricks. Playing a quick game of fetch or demonstrating sit-and-stay skills could be a shelter dog’s ticket to scoring a forever home.

“Being a big fan of cats, I was dismayed to hear how many at the shelter are euthanized each year. At first glance, many cats can seem shy and distant. This can be a turnoff for families looking for a household pet. Marjorie hopes the new outdoor cat enclosures and the new playroom will go a long way toward changing this perception. She works diligently to promote cat adoption and she’s convinced these new areas will have a positive effect.

“After my discussion with Marjorie, I wandered through the kennel corridors with my camera. I came across Zeus and Princess, brother and sister Pit Bull mixes. It was sad seeming them behind the chain-link kennel gates, but thanks to your generous donations, they got the chance to run and play in the meet-and-greet yard. And sure enough, both were adopted while I was in Florida.”

Your donation to the Petfinder Foundation will help us renovate more shelters and give even more homeless pets a better quality of life and greater chance at finding forever homes.

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Rescue U is Off to Florida!

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Pets like this border collie-mix girl will benefit from Rescue U’s renovation.

The Animal Rescue Site and the Petfinder Foundation’s Rescue U is in Tavares, FL, at Lake County Animal Services from March 9-15 performing some much-needed renovations. Volunteers from Pennsylvania, Kentucky, New Jersey and Florida are rolling up their sleeves.

The adoptable dogs at Lake County Animal Services will have plenty of space to play and exercise with a new 50′x70′ exercise pen built by Rescue U volunteers. 

Right now there are only two small outdoor play areas for the dogs at the shelter, which severely limits the amount of play and exercise time each dog is able to get. Rescue U is building a brand new 50’x70’ outdoor exercise pen. This will mean a significant increase in the amount of time each dog gets outside, making the dogs happier, healthier and more adoptable.

Rescue U is also making general fencing repairs throughout the shelter. Several of the cat and dog kennels are in need of repair, and the industrial perimeter fence needs to be replaced in some areas. Our Rescue U volunteers will fix this for Lake County Animal Services to make sure their kennels are safe and their perimeter is secure.

By the end of the Rescue U build, this area will include two outdoor play areas for the adoptable cats at the shelter.

The cats at the shelter are getting a special focus on this trip. Not only will their kennels be repaired where needed, but the cat room is getting a fresh coat of paint, and a mural to brighten up the mood of the room for potential adopters!

The Petfinder Foundation also ran a Groupon Grassroots campaign to help fund two outdoor cat play areas. These areas will vastly improve the quality of life of the cats at the shelter, allowing them a safe, stress-free place to stretch and play outside. This will reduce upper respiratory infections and other communicable disease and make the cats at the shelter much more adoptable.

All in all, this trip will make a huge difference for Lake County Animal Services. There is a lot of work to do in one week, but Rescue U will get the job done as always!

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We’re Helping Shelter Cats See the Sun

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A cat at Lake County Animal Services in Tavares, FL

Doug Woolsey, program manager

With Rescue U, I spend a lot of time going into animal shelters across the U.S., scouting locations for renovations, volunteering my time and actually building. The majority of the time, we focus our efforts on the outside, building exercise pens, meet-and-greet areas, and making functional repairs to the building or surrounding grounds.

One thing that always strikes me whenever I go into an animal shelter is the cats. Most of the time, the cats have their own large room and it’s filled with small cages where the cats spend the majority of their time. Some shelters have a colony room that the cats can go into for a short period of time, but then it’s back to the small cage. Typically there is no natural light, poor air flow and not enough room for them to exercise. That’s why building safe, enclosed outdoor cat areas is so important.

When we did a renovation in Jefferson City, TN, at the Humane Society of Jefferson County last May, we built an outdoor cat area, and I left feeling like I had really made a difference in the lives of the cats. I have a small obsession with cats. When I go into shelters, I always look at the ferals. It’s because of them that I realize how dire the cat situation is: Seeing a cat who is used to roaming free and fending for himself trapped in a cage and terrified shows me what the other cats have resigned themselves to. When I saw the cats in Jefferson City run out into the sun and have a safe place to stretch out and relax or play, it made all the frustration and hard work that went into building that enclosed yard instantly worth every second.

Petunia is a happy cat at the Humane Society of Jefferson County thanks to lots of outdoor time!

On March 9-16, Rescue U is going to Lake County Animal Services in Tavares, FL, for our spring break renovation, and one of the projects we are doing is building two separate outdoor enclosures that will include cat trees, scratching posts and toys.

This is extremely important for these cats. The area where they keep the cats is small, has no natural light and is very stuffy. The new enclosures will not only allow the cats to have some outdoor time, but greatly improve their overall well-being. Melissa Enck Descant, shelter director at the Humane Society of Jefferson County, said it best: “The difference we have seen in the cats has been amazing. They are happier, healthier and more playful. Our adoption rate for kittens has also increased. People love being able to go in and interact with the kittens, helping them to find their perfect companion. Our euthanasia rate is also down thanks to how healthy everyone has been.”

For this trip we started a Groupon Grassroots Campaign to help with the cost of building the yards. Our goal was to raise $500, and the campaign ended up raising $800, meaning donors made 80 donations of $10. The wonderful thing about the program is that the donations received beyond our goal will be used exclusively for improving life for the cats at the Tavares shelter. The last Groupon Grassroots Campaign that Rescue U participated in raised more than double our goal, and thanks to our generous donors, the Humane Society of West Michigan received a much larger dog agility course and we were able to put more money into other projects for the shelter.

We have volunteers coming out from Oklahoma, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Kentucky to help with this build. I’m sure that everyone who participates in this project will get the same gratification that I did in Jefferson City when they see the cats run out into the sun, stretch their legs and enjoy the fresh air that they would not have gotten otherwise.

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VIDEO: Watch this if You’re Thinking of Adopting a Bird!

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Noah Horton, assistant director

Yesterday, you learned a little about my experience renovating Carolina Waterfowl Rescue with our Rescue U team at the beginning of this month and met some of the permanent residents of CWR. Today I want to share how I learned about bird adoption and became more enamored with the idea of birds as pets.

Things to Consider Before You Adopt a Bird

I got a chance to talk with CWR director Jennifer Gordon about bird adoption and learned a huge amount. The considerations for adopting a bird are totally different than those for adopting a dog or cat. For one thing, dogs and cats are both natural predators. Most birds are considered prey animals. Knowing this one fact can change the way you look at a bird.

People often assume when meeting a bird for the first time that birds are unfriendly, when the truth is, they are naturally on the defensive until they are comfortable with you. Jennifer told me, “Most people say birds who they initially thought were unfriendly were eating out of their hands within a week.”

Furthermore, each type of bird requires a totally different type of care. Birds like parrots are very smart and require enrichment and interaction to stay happy. These are not good pets for people who are very busy and cannot spend time with their birds. Geese, on the other hand, can be left outside with proper shelter and a small pool and remain content without much human interaction. However, any bird who has imprinted on a human requires a large amount of human interaction. Watch the video above to learn the difference between imprinted, habituated and feral birds, and to hear some other considerations, such as your home’s zoning, that go into bird adoption.

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How Our Assistant Director Became a Bird Guy

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Noah bonded with Rupert the duck over his two-week stint at Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.

Noah Horton, assistant director

For most of my life, I was a self-proclaimed cat person. Don’t get me wrong: I love dogs — I’ve always just sided with felines. Maybe it’s their subtle personality quirks, or the way they make you work for the relationship, or the way they fall asleep for 19 hours a day and let you stack things on top of them and take photos. Whatever the reason, that has always been a part of my identity. That is, until last week.

You see, for the first two weeks of the year, I was with our Rescue U team in Indian Trail, NC, renovating a bird sanctuary. Carolina Waterfowl Rescue takes in tame and wild birds, gives them a safe and cage-free place to live, and works to find loving homes for the adoptable birds. The only bird rescue in the state, CWR adopts out about 1,800 birds a year and houses around 200 at any given time. The birds include ducks, geese, swans, turkeys, chickens, pigeons, herons, peacocks and cockatiels. Suffice it to say, it was a big change of pace from our usual Rescue U renovations of shelters that house mainly dogs and cats.

My Experience with the Birds of CWR

This yard of ducks is a typical scene at CWR.

When I first saw one of CWR’s many yards, full of swimming, quacking and waddling ducks of all kinds, I thought, “Look, a bunch of ducks.” Sure, I could tell the difference between the mallards and the Muschovys and the domestic Pekin ducks, but within those groups, they all seemed to be clones of one another. This is what I see as the biggest challenge for bird advocates: To an outsider, individual birds’ appearances don’t make them as easy to connect with as dogs or cats. But like I said, one of the reasons I’m a cat guy is I like that I have to work for the relationship. And I could tell from watching the regular CWR volunteers interact with the birds that there was plenty of relationship to be had!

Mr. “T” the Turkey

Mr. “T” the turkey had a thing for Liz Baker, executive director of the GreaterGood Foundation.

Mr. “T” the turkey is one of the flashiest birds on the 11-acre property. A domestic breed of turkey, he imprinted on humans immediately after he hatched, and feels more comfortable around humans than other birds. He is constantly puffed up in a full-feathered display, walking around trying to impress all the volunteers and any other people on the property. He walks up to you and prances back and forth as if to say, “Aren’t I pretty?” You can tell by the way he cuddles you that he appreciates a good pet to let him know you saw him. And you can tell by the way he reacts to different people that he recognizes them and has favorites. He really had a thing for Liz Baker, executive director of the GreaterGood Foundation (which fully funded the renovation through The Animal Rescue Site), and would make his neck extra long any time she was around to show how big and tough he could be for her. Because Mr. “T” is imprinted on humans, he requires a lot of attention and is not adoptable. Instead, CWR uses him for educational purposes, bringing him to local schools and adoption events.

Rupert Huneycutt the Duck

Rupert imprinted on humans when he was born. His original family gave him a collar that he still likes to wear.

My personal favorite was Mr. Rupert Huneycutt the duck, another permanent resident. He followed the volunteers into the main shelter building every day for lunch, waddling and chatting us up with a “quack, quack, quack” the whole time. When you walk up to Rupert, he tilts his head down and to the side, so he can look at your face. This is something I never knew a bird would do, but the staff at CWR assure me birds can remember the faces of many people, and after years of no contact, will remember people they especially liked. I actually witnessed a woman who volunteered at CWR a few years ago come to visit during the renovation. I was told Mr. Fuzzy the Canada Goose had really liked her when she was a volunteer. Sure enough, when Mr. Fuzzy saw her he quickly ran to her for a pet and to say hi. I like to think Mr. Rupert liked me, and after about a week he would allow me to hold and pet him, and gave me plenty of love nibbles.

The Love Story of the Black Swans

These beautiful black swans are a mated pair and do not leave each others’ sides.

The emotional capacity of the birds is amazing. A lonely or under-stimulated bird will refuse to eat or will self-mutilate (pull his feathers out). But birds also exhibit this behavior when those they love are in trouble. There is a beautiful mated pair of black swans at CWR (swans mate for life) whose story exemplifies this. The male swan had lost his previous mate before coming to the rescue and was extremely sad. The volunteers at CWR worked hard to make sure he ate. One night, an injured female black swan was brought in. The male, in the yard, heard her cries in the main shelter building and sat outside the wall closest to the female for weeks until she was brought outside. She slept in the kennel next to him, and he would scoot close to her and talk to her all night. After another couple of weeks, they began their courtship dance (a mating ritual performed in the water where the two swans perform intricate neck and wing movements), and they are now inseparable.

By the time I left the CWR, I could recognize the birds for who they were — individuals with distinct personalities who care for each other and the humans who look after them. Most of the permanent residents of the rescue, including Mr. “T” the Turkey, Marm a Lade the Rooser, Rupert the duck and Pringles the Grey Goose, have such big personalities, they have their own Facebook pages, which I encourage everyone to take some time to visit.

Bitten By the Bird ‘Bug’

After my two weeks at CWR, birds have a big place in my heart. As CWR director Jennifer Gordon told me: “It’s kind of a bug you get. Once you start working with the birds, it’s hard to stop.” Birds connect with you the same way any pet does — you just have to learn to see the signs; it’s like learning a new language. You have to dig a little to get to the connection (like cats), but once you’re there, it’s incredibly satisfying. Birds, as prey animals, have to make a conscious decision to let you get close to them, which makes your relationship special.

The number of dedicated volunteers who work with the birds at CWR every week is a testament to the power of the birds’ personalities. CWR is a 100% volunteer-supported organization, which means that 100% of donations go directly to the care of the birds who live there. To learn more about volunteering or donating to CWR, visit them online.

As for me, I’m still a cat guy, but now I can say with confidence that I’m also a bird guy. And I really miss Rupert the duck.

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VIDEO: Rescue U Helps Carolina Waterfowl Rescue Rebuild

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Noah Horton, assistant director

When Carolina Waterfowl Rescue was hit by a tornado in spring 2012, wind destroyed many of the structures that housed the adoptable and wild birds the rescue cares for. Kennels, cages and full sheds were blown across the property; feeding areas and barns lost their roofs; and several birds were injured. Rescue director Jennifer Gordon remembers the day the storms hit: “I was outside scrambling to get supplies in the shed, and the roof was lifted off, just like you see in tornado movies.”

Local volunteers made initial repairs (CWR is an all-volunteer organization), but the rescue still needed help. So Rescue U volunteers from Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arizona, Washington and North Carolina took time off work or gave up their school vacations to renovate the facility. Our projects include a new barn to store supplies and serve as a bird habitat, privacy fencing around the goat enclosure (CWR is also home to rescued goats!), more than 1,500 feet of chain-link fencing surrounding the property to keep out foxes, raccoons and other predators, repair on the existing fencing and gates, and several habitat and feeding structures around the property, including one on an island that can be reached only by kayak.

Mr. Pringles, a grey goose, will benefit from the barn being built by Rescue U volunteers. “Pringles is the dominant goose,” says rescue director Jennifer Gordon, “so he will be able to pick his spot in the barn first!”

The barn, in particular, will be a godsend. Many of the cage-free waterfowl prefer to roost inside when it is cold or rainy. Rescue U volunteers will build several of the raised beds they normally build for dogs to keep the birds off the ground, since birds lose a lot of body heat through their feet. Most importantly, the barn will provide protection for all the birds in the case of another terrible storm. “We get a lot of storms here,” Gordon says. “It will be nice to know we have a safe place to protect our birds when another one hits.”

This project was generously funded entirely by The Animal Rescue Site. Volunteers are here until Jan. 11. Stay tuned for more updates on construction progress and the pets who will benefit from the work!

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Rescue U Builds a Barn to Protect Adoptable Birds

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Noah Horton, assistant director

A curious Canada goose comes to the island to check on the progress of his new pole barn.

Today I experienced a little bit of island life. No, there weren’t any piña coladas, Hawaiian shirts or tanning sessions — I was working on an island at Carolina Waterfowl Rescue in Indian Trail, NC, as a part of our current Rescue U renovation project. (Read more about the renovation.)

A Rescue U volunteer ferries building supplies to the island via kayak.

CWR has around 150 adoptable birds at any given time. The majority are cage-free waterfowl, and those birds need water to swim, for enrichment and grooming and to avoid predators. There are several small ponds around the 11-acre property that serve this purpose. The largest pond surrounds a small island on which the geese and ducks at the rescue can sleep overnight to keep themselves safe. However, they were still vulnerable to birds of prey such as owls at night. Rescue U decided to build a pole barn — a small barn without walls — on the island to protect the birds from aerial predators and the elements and to keep the food kept on the island dry in the rain.

The only way to get to the island is by kayak. This makes building a bit of a process, as all tools and supplies must be ferried across the pond. And because the barn would rest on uneven ground and the boards had to be cut at odd angles, each board had to be measured and marked on the island, sent back to the mainland to be cut, then ferried back and installed. Finally, after a huge team effort, the whole pole-barn team and I were on location with all the supplies we needed to get the job done.

It took all day, with curious adoptable geese frequently coming over to say hello and check on our progress, but by the end of the day, the barn was completed. The waterfowl now have a little extra protection from the elements and predators.

In the coming days, Rescue U volunteers will be building a feeding box to store under the pole barn so food won’t need to be taken to the island by kayak as often, and will stay dry once there. Stay tuned for more updates!

Noah (center) and other volunteers celebrate the completion of the pole barn, which will protect many of the birds at the rescue.

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