September 2022 Snapshot
As fall rolled into the shelter, we got our first taste of cooler weather which often brings a relief to the overwhelming number of animals coming into our building during the warm summer months. However, over the years the busy season seems to extend well into the fall and this year is no different. We helped 886 animals in September and saw a slight dip in all other numbers except when it came to our fosters. Our foster department is continuing to see an increase in the number of animals needing special care before they can go into our adoption program. We are searching for more foster families willing to open their doors to animals in need. To learn more about fostering click HERE.
August 2022 Snapshot
1,035 lives came through our doors in August.
That's about 20 animals for every single employee. Animals that had no other place to go, and most came here by no fault of their own.
As an open access shelter, we cannot turn away an animal coming in from Fort Wayne or Allen County for any reason. That means even if we don't have space, if they have severe medical issues, or they are aggressive and not fit for adoptions - our door is always open.
We have many programs to help families keep their pets by addressing the underlying issues, but it's not always possible for the pet to stay in the home.
On any given day last month if you asked an employee how it was going the answer was probably, "not great". August was tough. Not only did we see an overwhelming amount of animals, but we were hit with several cases of feline panleukopenia.
Feline panleukopenia, also known as the feline distemper or feline parvo, is a highly contagious virus that mostly affects unvaccinated kittens. Symptoms include fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, and death. It is spread when a cat or kitten comes into contact with infected feces, vomit, nasal discharge and other bodily excretions. It does not affect people or other types of animals such as dogs.
The outbreak was devastating. Cats and kittens our staff, volunteers and fosters had fallen in love with became sick. Our staff and volunteers worked to deep clean nearly every inch of our building to stop the spread and protect the the other cats. Their countless hours of work and sleepless nights worrying about the animals here did not go unnoticed. Now, with strict cleaning, vaccination protocols and testing - things are calming down. While we aren't out of the woods yet, the cats in our care and leaving through adoptions are better protected against the deadly disease and won't continue to spread it as they head back out into the community.
Every cat leaving the building through adoptions must receive two vaccinations to prevent panleukopenia. The vaccines must be given 14 days apart, meaning cats are staying in the shelter nearly three times longer than normal. That means nearly every kennel is full.
Citizens needing to surrender their cat or kitten are being offered options to get the cat vaccinated against panleukopenia at the shelter then keep it at their home until the shelter is ready and able to take the cat or kitten. Citizens bringing in stray cats or kittens are offered the same service, vaccinations then the option to hold them in their home to prevent further spread of the disease.We're encouraging citizens to rehome their cats outside of the shelter if possible. Right now, we just don't have the space to take in anymore cats.
Try as we might to help find a positive outcome for every animal that comes here - it's just not possible as an open access shelter. Our staff - the ones who care for these animals every day - are faced with making difficult decisions when space is limited, an animal isn't safe to place in a home, or their suffering from a medical issue or injury is too much. Did we say August was tough?
So this is a snapshot of what it's like to be an open access shelter in the summer. A team of about 50 and an army of volunteers working hard to make a difference for the animals and people in our community.
Ask any employee or volunteer about one of the 1,035 animals we saw this month and you'll hear countless stories (ask me about Cheeto!) and you'll hear in their voices why they show up every day. Why they push through the hard moments, the tears, the stress and the sleepless nights. Why 1,035 isn't just a number.
2021 A Year in Review
Join us around the metaphorical campfire and let’s reflect on FWACC’s 2021 as a community.
First, thank you. Thank you for providing the support we needed to continue to help the people and animals of Northeast Indiana.
We are so grateful to be part of a truly caring community.
It’s easy to become wrapped up in the negative. We share stories of neglected or abused animals and they’re sad and unthinkable every single time. It never gets easier to see these beautiful animals who have suffered so much at the hands of humans. We can focus on the good. In each case someone cared enough to report the animal and every time we share their story donations come in and we have the tools to continue saving lives.
We had some amazing wins in 2021 and we pushed through some really hard struggles.
In February, we were so excited when we officially became Orphan Kitten Club partners. This is a charity run by The Kitten Lady whose mission is to give every kitten a chance at a full and happy life. This generous charity gave us a $10,000 grant to care for kittens and a $1500 individual kitten grant to save a little kitten in need named Cece. Best Friends Animal Society also generously gave $25,000 to our foster program which saw another record-breaking year in 2021. Through this program we were able to save 1,551 of the most vulnerable animals who came through our doors.
This would not be possible without foster homes. When we let you know what we need, you step up. We told you our foster homes were full and we needed help. You stepped up and over 150 new families opened their homes up for an animal in need. This incredible lifesaving increase came with an incredible workload for our foster coordinator. We were lucky to add a contracted foster assistant position thanks to a donation from a generous older couple in Allen County.
This increase in our foster program led to a need for increased adoptions and we have had yet another record-breaking year in our adoption program with 3,219 new pets finding their forever homes in 2021.
We completed the No Place Like Home Challenge in March which encouraged citizens of Fort Wayne to be proactive pet companions and make sure pets were microchipped, information was up to date, and they were familiar with what to do when a pet goes missing. This contributed to an extraordinary Return to Home rate of 59% for dogs and 8% for cats. This may seem low but is significantly higher than national averages at 17% for dogs and 2.5% for cats according to national database Shelter Animals Count.
We are struggling with staffing (like everyone else) and have had to make some adjustments. At one point, 1/3 of our animal control officer were positions open. Even so, our animal control officers responded to 19,123 calls for service. Of those 1,822 were calls of suspected animal cruelty and neglect. Our animal care staff struggled as well. We are so thankful for the help of our community and the 291 volunteers who gave over 11,000 hours of their time in 2021 to helped to ensure the animals’ needs were met.
In a continued effort to build a kinder, more humane community full of animal advocates, the shelter’s humane education team expanded their educational programs for children. Instead of two weeks of summer camp, six weeks are now offered, in addition to the creation of one-day fall, winter, and spring break camps.
We hope to make 2022 our best year yet!
A nice couple brought the kitten to us and asked to foster her after her stray hold period was up. We’re going to be honest. We weren’t sure if this kitten would be okay living in a home around humans due to its behavior towards staff – hissing, spitting, swatting, cowering, etc. As a public safety agency, we must make decisions with both the animal’s and caretaker’s safety in mind.
The people who found and brought the kitten to us were adamant that they wanted to take this kitten in and help it acclimate to humans. This couple who has adopted from us before and has 4 cats of their own truly wanted to help this kitten, so we allowed them to pick her up and we have an amazing and inspiring update for you!
This couple decided to adopt the kitten and she is proof that shelter life can just be too much for some animals, understandably.
They named her Lucky and here is how she is doing:
Update from 11/19/21
“Just wanted to send you guys an update that Lucky (the cat) is happy, healthy, and totally socialized with humans! We will start introducing her to our other cats when she gets over her sneezing. She was super cuddly the first night we had her. Once again, thank you so much for giving us the chance to save this kitty! We appreciate what you all did for her (spay and chip).”
Update from 1/14/22
“Lucky is doing great! Super happy and cuddly. Gets along very well with my wife and I and the other 4 cats. She even gets along well with our free roam rabbit!
My wife and I thought it might be nice if we shared how we got Lucky to be so friendly so quickly in the event that someone else comes to you guys with a "feral" cat. Maybe sharing these tips won't help everyone but maybe some people! Especially with kittens.
First we put her in a playpen that we have with a litter box, water, and a blanket in a spare room. We did this so she couldn't hide but was still in a controlled environment. We left her alone all day until night time so she could explore her new space without any distractions. We did not leave any food because we wanted that to come from a human hand. This way human interaction becomes a good thing.
At night my wife went in the room and played a cat purring YouTube video close to her body while lying down next to the playpen. She waited there without saying a word and finally Lucky came to check out the purring noise. After that all was good.
Time depends on the kitten but this time it was quick (thankfully). Hope this helps somebody!”
We are so happy Lucky is thriving in her forever home and gets along so well with all the other animals too. How precious are these photos? Thank you so much to the wonderful couple who took a chance on Lucky and are giving her an amazing, loving life.
It is important to keep in mind that not all feral cats can be socialized with humans especially if they are adults. Some cats did grow up outside, not interacting with humans and are happy living on their own. Of course it would be ideal if all cats had warm homes to live in and were happy to be around people, but that is just not the case with our cat overpopulation problem. Thankfully in Lucky’s case, she was young enough to be socialized.
Our Shelter Has Lost an Amazing Friend
There are some losses that are impossible to quantify with words. Every shelter has a core group of volunteers who are always there, ready with an encouraging word, ready to pitch in and help where they can. We lost one of those volunteers last month.
Mary Bonar was always a light around the shelter. Kindness and grace poured from her whenever she was around. She was a part of our surgery volunteer team as it was just getting started many years ago. She made adorable shirts for the often-overlooked animal care staff each holiday season. She has been a supporter of our shelter since we’ve been open to receiving support.
She believed in this shelter when few did. She always had a kind word and a listening ear. Over the years she gave thousands of hours as a volunteer and fostered too many kittens for our computer screen to fit.