By: Ariel Gruver
Tommy Lee paced back and forth incessantly, flicking his tail with nervous excitement as he watched other pets and their owners pass by.
Like many homeless cats, Tommy Lee had an owner not long before, yet for one reason or another ended up without, at the nearest animal shelter.
An estimated 4 million dogs and cats get euthanized every year in shelters across America. This is a common method used to handle overcrowding in shelters for pets that are not adopted within a given period of time. This means that out of approximately 6 million pets brought into shelters each year, only 40 percent of dogs and 30 percent of cats ever get to leave.
Luckily for Tommy Lee, a rambunctious black cat with an irresistible personality, he was picked up by the West Coast Dog and Cat Rescue, a no-kill animal shelter, that will care for him until he is given a permanent home to call his own.
WCDC is a local, non-profit animal rescue organization in Eugene, Oregon. What began in 2006 as a program to assist in finding homes for cats with Lane County Animal Services quickly developed into an organization with greater ambitions. In 2007, WCDC established its own non-profit entity and expanded its mission by partnering with LuvABull Pitbull Rescue to help both cats and dogs in the local area.
The mission of this non-profit organization: To provide care and peaceful living environments for abused, handicapped, neglected, abandoned or aged pets with the ultimate goal of finding them permanent homes, no matter how long it takes. One of the ways in which WCDC works toward this goal is by running open adoption events seven days a week at their offsite adoption location in Petsmart on Coburg road. Petsmart provides the adoption location, some of the necessary pet supplies, and fundraisers to earn donations for WCDC and other local adoption agencies. Manager Brittany Jayne said “Petsmart is all for pet adoption.” She explained that the store supports local non-profit adoption organizations similar to WCDC by providing a place for adoption events to be held.
On any given day you will find WCDC volunteers on site tending to their adoptable pets. This Saturday Sara Gomez, a senior at the University of Oregon, volunteered to help with the adoption event. Gomez first became involved with WCDC nearly one year ago when she adopted her kitten from the organization. Since then she comes in twice a month to help clean and once a month for adoption events.
Gomez enjoys volunteering for WCDC because it is a smaller, local adoption organization. According to Gomez this provides more opportunity to get to know each cat individually. “It helps when adopting out animals to know their quirks and personalities,” Gomez said. Like many other animal volunteers, Gomez wants to ensure that the adoptive owners will be the perfect fit for the animals and provide a permanent home with proper care.
Within her first year of volunteer work, Gomez has already seen many cats adopted into loving homes. Though each adoption is a positive experience for her, she most enjoys seeing older pets adopted into quiet, comfortable homes.
Gomez specifically recalls a 10-year-old cat named Yul, who was F.I.V. positive. Unlike most of the cats, who spend only a few weeks in the adoption room before being found a permanent home, Yul had been their for five long months without any potential adoptive families.
Due to his condition, Yul would need to be adopted into a single cat home and remain
indoors because of his weakened immune system. Otherwise Yul was a perfectly normal, loving senior cat in need of a quiet home and a caring owner. The day finally came for Yul, when a young couple came in to look at the adoptive cats and immediately fell in love with his irresistible charm. Instantly drawn to the couple himself, Yul jumped up excitedly on the girl’s lap and sealed the deal. Since then, Yul’s adoptive family has kept WCDC updated on his progress and has nothing but positive remarks to share about Yul.
Yul is one of many cats who have been re-homed through this organization. According to executive director Julie McDonnell, WCDC has placed over 980 pets into permanent adoptive homes. The organization takes in animals from infancy to old age, and focuses on helping animals with special needs like Yul. Helen Shepard, WCDC’s development director said, “Being a no-kill shelter, we try to take in animals that would otherwise be euthanized.”
Still, this small local organization has their work cut out for them. At any given time they have nearly 40 cats in foster care. According to Shepard, most cats go to a foster home until a space opens up in the adoption room. Homeless pets come to them from LCAS, other shelters, and through people surrendering homeless pets to them for support.
Before selecting a foster home, WCDC ensures that the animal sees a veterinarian for a health check up, shots, and any other treatment needed to improve the animal’s well being. “Cats come to us so frequently that we keep regularly scheduled appointments at the vet each week to be prepared,” Shepard said. After the cats have been cleared at the vet, they are given a temporary foster home from a growing list of volunteers in the community.
Once a spot in the adoption room at Petsmart becomes available, the next cat in line moves from foster care to be seen by the public and wait for the right adoptive owner to come their way. For most interested customers, WCDC offers a very simple adoption process and same-day adoption. Part of Gomez’ and other volunteers jobs is to ensure that both the adoptive owner and the pet will be a good fit for one another. According to Gomez, they have the applicants fill out an adoption form and contract, and thoroughly review the organization’s expectations of the applicants as potential adoptive pet owners. After the paperwork is completed, the volunteers put together a care package for the pet and send them home with their new owners.
More than anything, WCDC wants to make certain that each adopted animal will be given a safe, comfortable, and permanent home.
Two previous adopters Mike and Michelle Traufler came in on Saturday with their son to visit with the pets and volunteers of WCDC. Mike said “We come in here every week to see the animals.” Just 3 months ago, the Traufler family adopted a 3-month-old female tortoise shell cat from the WCDC adoption center. Michelle, who has done animal rescue in the past and worked with various adoption organizations, said that the adoption process at WCDC went very smoothly for them. There was a mutual agreement among the Traufler family and the nearby WCDC volunteers in the adoption room that day when Michelle said, “ pet adoption is a wonderful cause, one that saves a lot of animals’ lives.”
WCDC also works to educate the public on the importance of spaying and neutering pets. According to the Humane Society of the United States 4 million dogs and cats are put down in U.S. shelters each year, equaling to 1 every 8 seconds. As a non-profit, no-kill animal rescue, WCDC cannot stress enough the importance of spay and neuter as a preventative method to reduce pet overpopulation. By urging awareness and public education the volunteers at WCDC hope to influence pet owners and, in turn, prevent future pets from becoming part of this tragic statistic.
Still, many pet owners who know the facts may lack the necessary resources. Spaying and neutering can be a fairly expensive procedure, easily costing up to $300 at some veterinary clinics and animal hospitals. This is why WCDC consistently updates their list of resources for affordable spay and neuter clinics, and works to educate the public on the benefits of selecting this procedure for your pet.
In addition to general education and available resources, WCDC works with Willamette Animal Guild to provide a trap-neuter-release program to help control the feral cat population in the community. In most cases, for only $40, anyone can bring in a feral cat, have them neutered, vaccinated, and treated for any ailments before releasing them back into the wild. According to WCDC, this program has proven to be the most effective way to control feral cat populations over time. And any feral cat that has gone through this treatment can be easily identified, simply by looking to see if one of their ears has been docked.
Though WCDC is a smaller animal rescue organization, the volunteers that make it all happen have big plans for its future. Shepard explained that WCDC soon hopes to expand into a larger, on-site adoption center. Shepard said, “This will provide many more opportunities to host adoption events and build our reputation within the community.”
However, as any non-profit organization, WCDC needs to generate the funds and the support to make it all happen. Right now the organization is working to recruit more volunteers who can assist in clerical work, marketing, and public relations, as well as to develop a stronger organizational structure to expand from.
They also have a variety of fundraising events planned over the next few months. On April 21st, WCDC is holding a catered event at Lucky’s bar and music venue to build a larger network for resources and support. On April 29th, there will be a metal show at Black Forest to raise funds for the organization. In addition, the team plans to have another WCDC fundraising event at Cosmic Pizza in May and at Sam Bonds Garage in June.
WCDC would not have made it this far without the help of nearly 100 volunteers who
dedicate their time and resources to the organization. Without a current on-site location, volunteer members and directors often face difficulties maintaining communication and operating regular business processes. McDonnell states, “In addition to the off-site cat adoption center at Petsmart, foster families throughout the community provide the backbone of the organization.” With an already strong base of volunteer support, WCDC is hopeful to raise the necessary funds in order to expand business operations and provide more opportunities to save the lives of animals in need.
Brittany Jayne: Petsmart Manager
2894 Chad Drive
Eugene OR 97408
Sara Gomez: WCDC Volunteer and Student Volunteer Coordinator
Michael Fishman: UO Fraternity Student, WCDC Volunteer
Helen Shepard: WCDC Volunteer, Development Director
Mike and Michelle Traufler
Beth Swanson: WCDC Coordinator
Kate Tryhorn- WCDC Volunteer Coordinator
Julie McDonnell: Director
Theresa Moore-Silvanus: Feline Foster Coordinator