Support the River Valley Animal Advocates
To the Editor:
The River Valley Animal Advocates would like to thank everyone for their support of our recent plant/bake sale with raffle held at the Riverside Realty in Mexico.
This was our fourth annual plant sale (one of two major fundriasers for spay/neuter for the year) with beautiful plants, most of them donated by the Canton Park & Trails. The Canton Park (Heritage Park) is located across from the Victorian Villa.
Many individuals and businesses supported us with donations for our bake sale and raffle. Also, thanks to everyone for coming to meet us and share your animal stories. The support of our communites is very much appreciated and we would not have accomplished all that we have if not for all the "animal angels" in our area.
We have monthly meeting on the second Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. in back of the Dixfield Fire Department and invited anyone to join us. Members are from most of the area towns.
I (Becky McDonald, president of RVAA) live in Canton, and Brenda Jarvis is the vice president. Brenda and her sister, Caddy Smith, are known as the "cat sisters" of Dixfield, having cared for cats for many years. Donna Rowe, the treasurer, has owned and operated the Afternoon Delight in Mexico for many years and lives in Rumford. Donna and I have had the pleasure of sharing our therapy dogs in the area since 2001.
My first therapy dog (dogs that visit nursing homes, hospitals, schools) was Little Bear, who was the perfect therapy dog. He loved everyone and all the attention he could get every minute of his life. I shared my tears with many others that loved him when he passed away in 2009. I still have Sophie (certified since 2003) and she has her favorite people at Rumford Hospital, as well as knowing where she can find the dog biscuits.
Donna's little boy, Buddy, is now our senior visitor, have been a certified therapy dog since 2002. Christle Alexander's Zoey has also brought smiles to many.
The mission statement and philosophy of the RVAA is to promote and support healthy, loving and positive connestions and interactions between humans and animals for the physical, emotional and spiritual betterment of them all. We have three major goals.
One is to encourage people to have therapy dogs. I can't tell you how rewarding it is to have someone respond to a dog when they don't even seem to know other people are in the room. Another goal is to try to help elderly, disabled and low income people with their companion animals. Many elderly people live alone and their pet may be the only other heartbeat in their home. People with mental illness respond to their animals when they can't seem to do so well with people.
Times are hard and veterinary costs, like everything else, are high. We try to help with a revolving loan program for cat owners to get their cats fixed and have rabies shots. As the money is repaid, it is used for another cat. The RVAA helps people apply for the State of Maine Fix-Me vouchers, arrange appointments, lends car carriers and provides transportation from the Andover to Canton area for spay/neuter/rabies shots.
Don McLean, DVM, Kind Animal Care in Norway, does veterinary services for us and is as dedicated to the kitties as we area. The RVAA pays the entire cost for cats that would otherwise be euthanised but can find a home if it is fixed. We have also paid for several cat colonies that the owners would never have been able to return (TNR) services for feral or free roaming cat management. TNR is approved by the Humane Society of the U.S. Cats are live-trapped, spayed or neutered/get rabies shots and are returned to their environment. Their ears are notched so they can be identified. These cats do provide a service to the area they live in as they definitely take care of rats and mice as one of their major food sources.
Local animal control officers Sue Milligan, Ann Simmons-Edmonds and Tracey Wing are very caring dedicated professionals and the towns they serve should be very proud. Often, the make suggestions of areas with problems. If cats from a feral colony are taken out and euthanised (incurring extra costs for the time of the ACOs and euthanasia), other cats move in to take their place and nothing is accomplished. If the RVAA gets a cat fixed/rabies shots, and returns them, they hold a place in the colony and no longer spray/fight or have kittens.
We work at no cost to the towns and only ask help for veterinary fees and transportation of cats. Many local people are caretakers for cat colonies in the area, feeding them and allowing them to live nearby.
The Humane Society recently awarded the River Valley Animal Advocates a grant for $1,500, to be used to buy equipment for our spay/neuter and TNR program. Our goal is to work toward the elimination of animal suffering and overpopulation by s/n/rabies shots of cats. Since our beginning (became non-profit 501(c)(3) in Feb. of 2010), we have helped 424 cats from Andover to Canton (14 towns in all) to be fixed and have rabies shots.
We provide transportation for people that can afford to pay for veterinary services, loans, and pick up service for local cats, and paid total costs for cats that would otherwise be euthanised, colony cats, and the ferals or free roaming cats.
So far, 228 of the cats fixed have been females that could produce 5,000 potentially homeless kittens every year of their lives. Cat complaint calls are usually for male cats that are spraying or fighting, and female cats that are having kittens everywhere.
A large part of the animal control budget goes to euthanise/cremate cats. Many cats cannot be accepted as the shelter such as the ferals, cats that have health issues or congenital defects, or just because shelter space is limited. This is a direct cost to the towns on top of the time of the ACOs, and transportation for euthanasia.
We had an initiated article on the first Town of Rumford budget. The funds were to be used for veterinary and transportation costs for Rumford cats to be s/n/rabies shots. The process in Rumford started in February and was very thorough with meetings with the Select Board (Chief Stacy Carter spoke on behalf of our group at the meeting), Finance Committee (ACO Sue Milligan spoke on our behalf at the meeting), and the public hearing before the vote.
All of the Rumford officials spent a great deal of time and thought in working on their budget. Needless to say, we were very disappointed to have our article vote down, along with many other worthy causes.
The Town of Mexico donated $500 to our group last year and along with over $200 in RVAA funds was used for Mexico cats, enabling us to help 34 cats and work on two new feral sites in Mexico.
We hope Mexico voters will find it in their hearts to vote on the new Mexico budget to grant us another $500 this year for Mexico cats/owners. We believe we are saving area towns money in the short term by fixing cats that would otherwise be a cost to the towns for euthanasia, and working with the ACOs on problem areas.
Long term, it is cheaper to help the RVAA s/n/rabies shots for cats than to pay extra ACO costs and euthanasia/cremation costs for an endless supply of kittens. In just three years, the RVAA has helped to fix enough female cats to reduce the number of potentially homeless kittens by 5,000 per year. What can we accomplish in 10 years?
This would not have been possible without the many animal angels in our communities. Bless you all!
River Valley Animal Advocates,