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Feral cat a little safer with SAFARS

SAFARS volunteer, Jacob Hanson carefully pets a feral kitten.  - Sharron Ho
SAFARS volunteer, Jacob Hanson carefully pets a feral kitten.
— image credit: Sharron Ho

The Sooke Animal Food and Rescue Food Society recently obtained a barn to serve as an animal rehabilitation centre for feral cats and kittens.

According to Margarita Dominguez, SAFARS president, volunteers have been working over the past four months to repair and clean the old barn, clear surrounding land and build fencing.

“When we went inside there was cables and there were things that people have thrown inside for years, all mixed up together,” she said.

Although more work still needs to be done, SAFARS has moved in and started up a modest operation, fitting the barn with kennels for adult feral cats and a nursery for kittens.

More housing in the form of “cat condos” -- two story, four by two foot structures -- are expected to be built in and around the barn.

Dominguez said the barn, which is rented for an undisclosed amount, has given SAFARS the ability to launch services for animals in need in Sooke.

“It’s a start that we will start a rehabilitation centre,” she said. “We are very happy that we have the opportunity of this barn.”

The objective of SAFARS is to help maintain Sooke’s growing population of feral cats in a humane manner through the catch, spay, neuter and release program.

“It’s to stop the over-population, it’s a humane alternative to euthanasia,” Dominguez said.

Joel Hanson, SAFARS vice-president, agreed.

“We’re not like the SPCA... we don’t take care of people’s unwanted pets or stray animals. We take care of wild creatures and like I say, prevent the population boom from happening the humane way,” he said.

“If left to grow on their own, then they run into issues like starvation and over-population.”

Before going out and trapping cats, SAFARS volunteers contact the landowners to seek permission.

“If the person doesn’t want us on the property, we cannot go. We cannot touch an animal that is not ours, only with the owner’s permission,” Dominguez said. “We want to work together, not against.”

Adult feral cats are then neutered or spayed and kept in kennels, covered with a blanket, for about two weeks until they are released in the locations they were found.

SAFARS erects a dog house on top of cement blocks to provide the cats with shelter. The landowner works together with the society to feed the cats regularly with food supplied by SAFARS if needed.

Captured kittens are kept inside of an enclosed nursery. Volunteers regularly socialize the animals for about two to three weeks until they are ready to be adopted.

“In a couple of weeks they are ready to be adopted, without a facility like this we wouldn’t be able to do this,” Dominguez said.

So far, SAFARS has released four cats from it’s catch, neuter, spay and release program, and found homes for about six abandoned cats.

For information on SAFARS on how to donate, adopt or volunteer, visit: www.safars.org

SAFARS will be holding a  garage sale on Oct. 6 from 10 a..m to 4 p.m. at 2075 Otter Point Rd.

All proceeds will be used for the catch, spay, neuter and release program.

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