Our Companions, Domestic Animal Sanctuary
In a small office nestled in the hills of Bloomfield, CT, we found Susan B. Linker, Chief Executive Officer of Our Companions, Domestic Animal Sanctuary working with an amazing group of dedicated volunteers. As if advocating for animals, running educational programs, assisting pet owners in need, and facilitating pet adoptions is not enough, Our Companions is developing the first animal sanctuary in New England.
Susan Linker, Chief Executive Officer, Our Companions
Shelters Have Come Along Way, But
Animal shelters have come a long way. Take a visit to your local animal shelter and you may see new state of the art cages with individual fresh air inlets, Kuranda ergonomic beds, and radiant heated floors. The staff and volunteers do everything they can to keep the pets healthy and comfortable. But even with updated modern equipment most animals are still in cages. With many cages to a room, a shelter is a noisy, stressful place. Since most of their time is spent in cages dogs and cats do not learn to socialize with each other or with humans. By building its animal sanctuary, Our Companions is changing the way we shelter homeless animals.
It All Started With A Gift
In 2002, after receiving a gift of 43 acres in Ashford, CT Our Companions Domestic Animal Sanctuary was formed. Our Companions raised the funds necessary to demolish the buildings on the site, a factory animal farm, and prepare the land for construction. The first phase of construction will cost $920,000. With over $800,000 already collected Our Companions expects to start building the first phase by the summer of 2011, moving into their new home in the fall of 2011. The first building will be a comfortable, cage free environment for dogs and cats, each on their own floor. This one building is expected to save 180 animas from euthanasia a year. Upon completion the complex will have 16 cottages, 8 for cats, and 8 for dogs, rescuing and re-homing 1200 cats and 160 dogs a year.
Master Plan for Sanctuary
Out of the 43 acres, 30 acres will be left forested providing the surrounding community with hiking trails appropriate for families and their dogs, and a dog park. Creating a comfortable environment for animals and humans, Our Companions looks forward to hosting many educational activities for the entire community at their sanctuary.
The Sanctuary Is Only A Part Of Our Companions' Work
All of this is the future. But right now pet owners and pets need help, and Our Companions has developed unique programs to answer the many calls that they receive every day. In order to provide help now, Our Companions had to examine the root causes of animal homlessness. What are the real needs of pet owners? How to prevent animals from being abandoned, left on the street, or given to overcrowded shelters? And how can the feral cat community be assisted and their population decreased?
Preventing Animal Homlessness Is At The Core Of Everything They Do
When you call Our Companions you will talk to a volunteer who has been trained to listen to your needs and start the process of giving you appropriate assistance. Often the problem is economic. In tough times Pet food may be seen as a luxury that some feel they can no longer afford. An understanding volunteer may offer to deliver a bag of pet food. Getting over the immediate emergency often allows pet owners the time to reassess their needs developing a plan to keep their pet. Sometimes the owner has a medical emergency. An owner, or his family members, cannot care for his pet while in the hospital or during a long rehabilitation. Our Companions has many volunteer Foster Parents who will lovingly care for the pet until the owner can resume parenting. If the volunteer cannot work out a solution that allows for eventual reuniting of the pet with its owner, a Foster Parent will care for the pet until a permanent adoption can be made. Many animals are given to shelters because the animal’s medical care is too difficult or expensive. Our Companions will make every effort to place these animals with permanent parents who are willing and capable to care for them. Several cats with special medical needs are now living at Our Companions temporary headquarters being cared for by the volunteers and Susan B. Linker. All of the assistance is aimed at keeping the animals in a home environment and away from traditional shelters.
Cats Susie, Gloria, and Ruby are all special needs cats. Ruby, 13, is resting in her heated bed. Ruby has lymphoma. All live at Our Companions headquarters with Susan Linker and volunteers. They are not for adoption.
Feral Cat Communities Can Be Helped
Many of us are familiar with feral cat communities. The communities naturally form when cats are abandoned by misguided pet owners who believe that cats can take care of themselves in the wild. Cats, a very social animal, will join together often becoming wild and dangerous. A community of feral cats may include many generations living together along with recently abandoned cats. When Our Companions receives a call regarding a feral cat colony a plan is put into action to assist the cats. The solution has several steps; trap, neuter, and return. Volunteers will provide the caller with humane traps training him on their use. If he is unable to set the traps volunteers will do so. Once trapped, the cats are removed from the colony and examined by veterinarians who partner with Our Companions. They will be treated for disease and parasites, vaccinated, and neutered/spayed. Before being returned to the colony one ear will be sniped, alerting volunteers and animal control personnel that the cat has been neutered and vaccinated. Friendly cats, often recently abandoned, can be separated from the community, staying with a Foster Parent until an adoption is possible. Small insulated cat homes (pictured) are left with the returning cats. These insulated homes allow cats to better deal with cold or wet weather helping to keep the community healthy. Because of neutering the colonies eventually die out.
Finding The Right Adopting Pet Parent Is Key
Keeping domesticated pets out of shelters without the use of euthanasia is the highest priority of Our Companions. To accomplish this goal facilitating pet adoptions is central to all the work that they do. 300 pets including cats, dogs, gerbils, and an occasional pot belly pig are adopted each year. The adoption process starts when a volunteer advertises the pet on “Pet Finders” www.petfinder.com, Our Companions website, and partnering radio stations. Each prospective new pet parent is interviewed. Close attentions is paid to life style and family members. A prospective owner may have their heart set on an animal that is inappropriate for his life style or the needs of his family. To avoid adopted pets being returned, Our Companions will only offer a pet for adoption if the pet and owner are a good match. Pet parents adopting dogs are offered free training by one of the 30 volunteer trainers. Volunteers check in with owners several times in the first year of adoption to make sure that the new relationship is working well for both the pet parent and the pet. In order to encourage adoptions the price is kept low; $95.00 for a dog and $75.00 for a cat. Many of the adopting pet parents become life time donors.
To Be Successful At Its Many Tasks, Our Companions Needs Your Help
All of the good that Our Companions does takes money. Over $100,000 still needs to be raised to complete the first building stage of the Sanctuary. In addition the Sanctuary will require paid full time personnel and the costs of caring for the animals. Our Companions will continue with all of the programs and advocacy that they presently undertake. To make fundraising fun they have organized an Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, April 23rd. The Egg Hunt will take place in Farmington, CT, at the Farmington Miniature Golf and Ice Cream Parlor. This annual event has long been a highlight of the Easter Season in Connecticut’s Farmington Valley. For a $1.00 donation hunt for chocolate filled Easter Eggs, enjoy face painting and a bounce house. If you are near Connecticut plan to bring the whole family to this annual event. Check out all of the scheduled fund raising events at http://www.ourcompanions.org
For additional information and details about adopting and volunteering go to. www.ourcompanions.org.