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.
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.