Monday, August 15, 2011

Florida cats one step closer to their forever homes!

Submitted by RedRover Responders volunteer Beth Gammie of Tallahassee, Florida

The nearly 700 cats seized from a failed cat sanctuary in Florida are one step closer to their forever homes. On August 2, the couple that ran the sanctuary surrendered ownership of the rescued animals to Alachua County Animal Services, the agency that began the investigation into the cats’ welfare.

Jessica Lauginiger, the lead investigator for Alachua County Animal Services on this case, said the surrender means the cats can be spayed and neutered, undergo other needed surgeries, and be readied for adoption.  She added, “I’d love to see them all go to fabulous homes. That’s probably when I’m gonna break down and cry.”

An adopt-a-thon will be held in Gainesville on August 26, 27 and 28 to help place these cats into loving homes. Any cats not adopted at this event will be placed with reputable rescue groups throughout the country for adoptions. Anyone interested in finding out more details regarding adoptions may email Jessica Lauginiger at: Read about the adopt-a-thon in the Gainesville Sun.

The rescued cats have waited patiently since their rescue on June 7 and 8.  At that time, RedRover Responders volunteers set up an emergency shelter for the beleaguered cats, and provided care for the animals so neglected by humans. 

While the court case played out, the cats used the time to heal and recover. The difference between the cats now and in June is striking. Upper respiratory infections are gone. The cats’ eyes are clearer, and their breathing is normal. The shy ones have come out of their shells and the lively ones are livelier than ever. The kittens are now housed in a special room, dubbed “Romper Room,” and larger kennels were constructed for the 20 or so kittens so they could develop as normal, playful kittens.

Some of the other cats in medical difficulty have also made great progress. Grandma is a case in point.  Estimated to be between 15and 18 years old, Grandma came in to the shelter weighing a mere four pounds. She had no teeth, and although she ate ravenously, Grandma did not gain weight. 

Dr. Patty Gordon treated Grandma, and eventually moved her to the All Cats Clinic in Gainesville for further testing and treatment. Dr. Gordon diagnosed Grandma as having hyperthyroid disease, which explained some of her low weight. Dr. Gordon and her staff have fallen for Grandma and she remarked, “She is so sweet.  She is very interactive and watches everything that is going on.” The TLC is paying off—Grandma is now weighing in at more than five pounds and is looking better than ever.

Possum and his adopter Dr. Cate McManus
Possum, the blind kitty who is positive for the feline leukemia virus, is getting downright rambunctious. He meows at passersby, plays with his next-door neighbor, and the infection in his eyes have cleared up. Best of all, Possum has his forever home already picked out!  University of Florida veterinarian Cate McManus fell for Possum when she was treating cats at the emergency shelter and decided to adopt him. “There’s something about him that grabs your heart,” Dr. McManus said. Now that ownership has been surrendered, Dr. McManus can take Possum home, have him examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist, and give him the life he deserves.

RedRover Responders volunteers were there at the beginning of this lengthy rescue, and got these cats off to a great start in their temporary home. Alachua County Animal Services could not have undertaken this case without the help of the RedRover Responders and other partnering agencies. Jessica, the lead investigator said, “You guys were fantastic.  You come from all over the country, on your own dime and vacations. I can’t say enough about that.” She smiled and said, “It makes me want to be a better person.”

On August 15, the owners of Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary were arrested on 47 counts of animal cruelty. Read more >>

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A portrait of happiness for flood victims

Amber Johnson, her son Dontae, and their three dogs, Runt, Kodi and Sky, lost everything when their mobile home park went completely under water and was destroyed when the Souris River flooded in June. FEMA put Amber and Dontae up at a motel, and Amber brought the three dogs to the emergency animal shelter in Minot, North Dakota.

Now the family is waiting for a FEMA trailer. Amber doesn’t know for sure if and when it will come, but, with a four-year-old son, Amber is hoping that she’s high up on the waiting list for trailers.

Amber Johnson holds her son Dontae, while
Kodi, Runt and Sky eagerly wait to go home,
On August 2, Amber and Dontae came to the emergency animal shelter to pick up dogs Runt and Kodi. They had picked Sky up a couple of days earlier. Amber’s mother was in the mandatory evacuation zone but her home had sewer backup only, and, since then, her mother’s basement has been gutted and cleaned out. It would be a good place for the dogs to stay temporarily until Amber has housing.

Families may take crates, donated by PetSmart
Charities Emergency Relief Waggin' program,
when they pick up their pets.
What did the emergency animal shelter meant to Amber and Dontae? Amber says, “Everyone at the shelter has been unbelievable!” With tears welling up in her eyes, she added, “I don’t know what we would have done without this shelter.” In fact, Amber felt so happy about reuniting the family that she asked us to hold up on the photo shoot until she could go pick up Dontae and Sky so they could also be part of the family portrait!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Coincidence or providence?

Submitted by RedRover Responders volunteer Marcia Goodman of Cromwell, Connecticut

On August 3, Tonia Vitko and her young children, Solano and Levi, walked into the temporary pet evacuation shelter in Minot, North Dakota, to visit their cat, Linus. They had brought Linus to the shelter when their home was flooded and made uninhabitable. Their other cat, Lucy, who is Linus’ sister, had run away during the flood. Solano Vitko was particularly close to Lucy and she was devastated by the loss.

Clockwise from left: Solana Vitko holding
Lucy, Tonia Vitko holding Levi,McLean
Kolobakken, Dylan Kolobakken

holding Linus, and Alonna Kolobakken.
Joining the Vitko family at the emergency shelter that day were McLean Kolobakken and his young children, Alonna and Dylan. The Viktos moved in with the Kolobakken family during the flood.

RedRover Responders volunteers Janet McAuliffe, Jodi Jenkins and Karen Darmstead were doing their daily morning cleaning of the cat room (called “Kitty Kastle”) when the Vitko and Kolobakken families arrived to visit Linus. Janet, Jodi, and Karen witnessed the happy reunion.

Then Solano began to look around at the other cats in the vicinity and suddenly started jumping up and down, calling out “It’s Lucy! It’s Lucy!” Her mother’s first reaction was that it couldn’t be, but then she turned and saw that, sure enough, it was Lucy. Not only that, but Lucy’s cage was right across the aisle from Linus. Although there had been as many as 300 cats at the shelter, this brother and sister had been looking at each other all this time! It turns out that someone had found Lucy and had taken her to the shelter as a stray cat.

This is a happy ending -- but wait! There’s more to this story of “Coincidence or Providence." The Vitko family also had a dog, Teddy, who they took to the shelter when their home flooded. A few days before the Vitkos were reunited with Lucy, they told shelter manager, Susan Wagers, that they wouldn’t be able to keep Teddy.

Patty Luetzen, left, watching the Vitko
family say goodbye to Teddy as the
Kolobakken family looks on.
Enter Patty Leutzen, who had seen Susan’s plea for temporary foster homes for animals whose families would still be without homes when the emergency shelter closes at the end of August. One of Patty’s two dogs had recently died, and she wanted to help the victims of the flood because her home had been spared.

Susan, who is the Executive Director of Souris Valley Animal Shelter, recognized Patty, who had adopted dogs before. Patty told us that Susan said, “Have I got the dog for you!” After a successful interaction between her dog and Teddy, Patty arranged to adopt Teddy.

On August 3, at the same time the Vitko family was reuniting with Lucy, Patty arrived at the emergency shelter to pick up Teddy. What a surprise when Patty spotted the Vitko family accompanied by McLean Kolobakken and his children. Patty and McLean work together. It’s a double happy ending for Teddy because the Vitko and Kolobakken families will be able to visit with him.

So now, you answer the question . . . was the two-fold happy ending to this story coincidence or providence?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Easing the burden in a flood-weary community

The water may have receded in Minot, North Dakota and the headlines may have disappeared from the local newspaper, but Kathy Nelson hasn’t forgotten how the flood on June 22 tore her family apart.

Tucker, Kathy and Sadie during a
visit at the temporary shelter
She remembers every morning, when she wakes up on her grandson’s bedroom floor instead of in her own home, now inundated by sewage and essentially “gone.” She remembers for eight hours every day, when she works hard to earn enough money for a new home she can afford. And she remembers every evening when she visits the temporary animal shelter to visit her “babies,” Tucker and Sadie.

“These guys are my babies, they are part of my family,” Kathy told us. “To know they are taken care of and they have a safe place and they are going to be fed ... is huge to me. It just takes a lot of stress and worry off me.”

Tucker and Kathy play ball
A team of RedRover Responders met Tucker and Sadie this week – along with more than 300 other dogs and cats uprooted by the flood – when they went to Minot to help the Souris Valley Animal Shelter (SVAS) operate the temporary shelter.

SVAS staff have been working non-stop since the flood to care for animals of families with nowhere to go. The RedRover Responders were called in to help relieve the burden and share their expertise in emergency sheltering.

When the town of 35,000 in north-central North Dakota first flooded, local residents came in droves to walk dogs and help run the shelter. But as the floodwaters receded, the animal crisis receded from people’s memories and the volunteer forced dwindled.

Sadie and Kathy kiss hello
RedRover, as well as other national organizations with emergency response teams, are providing a second wave of support so SVAS can keep the shelter open for another month to allow people more time to find a new place to live.

Kathy and other residents who visit their pets tell us that finding affordable, pet-friendly housing is next to impossible in Minot. Apartment buildings do not allow pets, and a booming oil industry and influx of workers has caused rents to skyrocket.

Thanks to the SVAS staff, the RedRover Responders, and all the other groups who have sent people to help, pet owners like Kathy can sleep just a tad easier knowing their pets are safe.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Minot family grateful for pet evacuation shelter

Minot, North Dakota flood survivors Tom and Laurisa Moody and their daughter Rhiannon are staying in a hotel that allows pets, but they can’t leave their Chihuahuas, Princess and Mischief, unattended there.

So every morning they drop the pair off at the pet emergency shelter so they can work and take care of their responsibilities, and every night they pick the dogs up for a sleepover at the hotel.

RedRover Responders volunteers talked to the Moody family this week as they dropped off Princess and Mischief after another sleepover.