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Strays and feral cats aided by new group

Strays and feral cats are being aided by new group. - Sharron Ho
Strays and feral cats are being aided by new group.
— image credit: Sharron Ho

Sooke’s newest animal welfare group needs a financial jump start to get off the ground.

The Sooke Animal Food & Rescue Society has a mandate to manage the hundreds of homeless cats in the region, provide pet food and veterinary services to low-income pet owners, and locate foster homes for pets of victims of domestic abuse currently living in transition homes.

But operating on a shoe-string budget has limited what the organization can do. Previous financial assistance from larger Victoria-based animal welfare groups have pretty much ceased due to a shortfall in donations, making the situation even more dire.

Margarita Dominguez, president and founder of SAFARS, said the feral cat colonies, two in Otter Point and one in East Sooke, are currently getting out of hand.

“The problem is not in Victoria, they don’t have big lands and bushes like we do,” she said, adding due to the economic downtown, people are no longer able to afford their cats, and are dumping them left and right.

“This is happening everywhere.”

Dominguez is currently utilizing the standard trap, neuter and release program used in many other localities to control feral cat colonies.

The procedure entails the trapping of feral cats, sterilizing them, and releasing back into the wild in an area where a shelter structure will be built.

“We create a shelter, and we feed them for the rest of their lives,” Dominguez said.

In order to properly manage the feral cat colonies, the organization requires more traps, gas certificates to travel to and from colonies, a donation of land on a non-residential area to build a boarding house to hold cats temporarily until they can be fostered, adopted or returned to the wild, and carpenters to help build shelters.

Domingeuz said the problem has the risk of becoming unmanageable, as one female cat can breed three times a year, having up to five kittens per litter, which then in turn reproduce. She said within two years, one cat can potentially equate to 1,875 cats.

“It’s going to end like the rabbits if we don’t stop this,” she said.

The organization also helps low-income families who have fallen on hard times and can no longer afford to feed or provide proper care for their animals.

Instead of judging, labelling or removing the pets, Dominguez said SAFARS will fund necessary veterinary services and provide food.

“We’re not going to judge, we are here to help,” she said.

But in order to continue functioning as an animal food bank, and veterinary services sponsor, SAFARS requires donations of dog food (hypoallergenic varieties are always needed), cat food, gift certificates to pet food stores, cat litter and  gift certificates for veterinary clinics.

Despite a small budget, volunteers with SAFARS have already begun monitoring feral cat colonies, making home deliveries of pet food and assisting pet-owners with vet bills.

Dominguez also said SAFARS has been well-received by the community, adding many people have expressed an interested in volunteering and adopting animals from Sooke.

A few of the supporters include Grade 6 Journey middle school students, who have been holding bake sales during lunch hour for SAFARS.

The ambitious and animal-rights minded students raised $82 from lunch time bake sales.

“I wanted to do the bake sale because I wanted to help the animals,” said Grade 6 student Maya Orazietti through email. “I love animals and want to be a veterinarian when I grow up.”

Half of the  money was used to purchase cat food and the other half was spent on a veterinary gift certificate.

Check out www.safars.org for more information and to make donations.

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