November 23, 2014
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Caged companions

Back in July, a home was raided. There were 35 Chihuahuas inside. It was an extreme case of animal hoarding.

Thirty-five animals under one roof is almost unfathomable; to properly care for them seems impossible. Now imagine double that amount.

There are currently 70 animals at the Warwick Animal Shelter, and while we realize it’s a far stretch from a private residence, it’s still a time-consuming and expensive job to maintain their health and well-being.

In a time when incomes have leveled off and layoffs abound, it’s not a stretch to see how it can be difficult for pet owners to support their furry friends. Ann Corvin, director of the Warwick Animal Shelter, believes the economy has a lot to do with the growing numbers of homeless animals in Warwick.

What’s worse is that these animals appear to be abandoned, left on the streets, in parks or elsewhere, with no identification. No one calls to inquire about them. It’s clear they’ve been abandoned on purpose.

Deb Niosi, a caretaker at the shelter, said it’s never wise to abandon an animal. It might seem obvious, but for whatever reason – pride, embarrassment – people now seem more willing to leave their animals to their own devices than to seek help for them.

Niosi said anyone who is struggling to keep their animal for financial reasons or other circumstances, should reach out to their local shelter. They can help struggling pet owners to either find friends or family who can take the animal or help solve whatever problems are standing between the owner and their pet.

When these simple steps aren’t taken, animals end up at the shelter in cages, where they stay, on average, for three months. For those animals that were used to living in loving homes, being holed up in a cage is foreign and frightening.

The staff keeps cages clean and food and bowls full, but it’s not an ideal place for animals. The noises, smells and confinement become a part of their daily lives.

Walking through the shelter, one can see noses poking through cages. Sad eyes look up at visitors. Those with more moxie bark, or jump, or wag a tail. Even the cats vie for attention, grooming and purring as onlookers decide their fate.

But the startling thing is not the numbers. It’s the beauty and personalities behind those bars who can’t understand what they have done to deserve this treatment. For whatever reason, we’ve let our companion animal population exceed the number of people willing to own. These are dogs that should be catching Frisbees and licking faces and cats that should be swatting flies and chasing balls of yarn, not caged and forgotten.


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