It’s raining kittens and puppies
The only thing that could overpower the stench of 10 newly weaned kittens plucked from a dumpster on a triple-digit day in Medford was rescuers’ heartache over the animals’ abandonment to die in the blazing heat.
To be sure, Jackson County Animal Services Manager Kim Casey has seen some heart-wrenching stories in her decades working in animal welfare.
But the box of scared and starving kittens, discarded as trash, was one of the sadder tales.
“It’s not unusual for a tragic or sad circumstance to come up in our line of work, especially when people get desperate and feel that they don’t have any other means of dealing with their problems, but this was just especially sad,” Casey said.
“We have not been able to take surrendered kittens because we’ve kind of maxed out our foster program and our volunteers. But when somebody walks into our office with an overheated box of kittens smelling like garbage, it’s not something we can turn our backs on.”
Casey said the kittens came from two separate litters, and were approximately 5 and 7 weeks of age.
“Thankfully somebody heard their pitiful cries, or it could have ended quite poorly for these babies,” Casey said.
“We suspect this was a case of someone who was overwhelmed, probably gathered them up and decided they were going to take care of a situation. And they did just that.”
Just days after the kittens arrived, Casey said, local sheriff’s deputies delivered 11 more desperate souls. An emaciated mama dog — a border collie/pitbull mix — and her 10, two-week-old babies.
Casey said it was sobering to see multiple large groups of cats and dogs discarded and abandoned. A doodle mother and her six babies were dumped weeks before the 10 border collie mixes, she noted.
The 10 puppies had been left in a cage without water or food.
“Jackson County Sheriff’s Department got called out to an abandoned trailer, and she was closed up in a wire crate with all her puppies. They were severely overheated, and we were pretty sure they couldn’t be saved,” Casey said.
“They were only 2 weeks old, so the chances weren’t good. Our technician spent several hours reviving these overheating babies, and we are happy to report that all of them have, somehow, made it.”
Now 5 weeks old, the puppies, as is the case with the kitties, Casey said, are in desperate need of foster care.
Even before the two recent 10-packs, a surge in owner surrenders and stray animals have been overtaxing county animal shelter capacity and staff.
Current restrictions, not being able to accept owner surrenders because of capacity issues, have seemingly prompted some bad decisions. A regional shortage of spay and neuter resources and limited local veterinary resources in general have compounded the problem.
One tactic shelter officials have discovered, Casey said, has been for owners who can’t — or won’t — pay for medical care to deliver their pets to the Southern Oregon Veterinary Specialty Clinic, claiming the animals are strays. The clinic provides medical care for injured strays, then takes the animals to the shelter.
“There are a lot of issues contributing to the problems we’re having. The housing issue has been bad. We have people who lose their home or are forced to move into different housing,” Casey said.
“Also, some of what we’re seeing is people who made decisions during COVID. They were home more. Maybe they didn’t think about what kind of animal they were getting. Now they’re doing more traveling, or they’re going on vacation … and they decide that cat or dog they adopted was a bad idea.”
She added, “The underlying thing is that we have people who didn’t think their decision through, or they didn’t think about what would need to happen if their circumstances changed. In some cases, it’s that they can’t afford or don’t have access to medical care. Even still, we have people who did all the things they were supposed to who are finding themselves suddenly in a more desperate situation.”
For now, Casey said, the shelter staff will keep doing as much as they can.
On one afternoon last week that meant little puppies and tiny kittens sleeping in laps, burrowed on shoulders or sitting next to desktop keyboards.
“We got a whole lotta babies in this shelter right now, and everyone is trying to help socialize them while we try to recruit volunteers to foster. I had two of them in my arms as I was typing yesterday,” Casey said.
“It’s true what they say, that when it rains, it pours. And right now, it’s raining cats and dogs in the shelter … except, I guess you’d say in this case, it’s raining puppies and kittens.”
Casey said shelter officials hoped to place the puppies and kittens in pairs, which is less frightening for the animals. The shelter also has a dire need for foster families for older cats and dogs, and for dogs who are waiting for medical care or are stressed by a shelter environment.
For volunteer info, see fotas.org/volunteer/about-fostering/
For information about the 10 kittens or 10 puppies, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-774-6651.
Reach reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.