(per leggere questo articolo in lingua italiana, cliccate qui)
Have you ever come across an abandoned animal?
It makes your emotions swirl.
Anger. Sadness. Joy. Relief.
You pick up the small, innocent creature and cradle it in your arms, and assure it that everything will be OK.
You take it home and wonder what to do. You buy some food, your friends loan you a cage and litter box, and the little furball spends the night with you.
The next day, you take it to the vet where they give it a quick (free) checkup and let you know that the animal is healthy. And then?
Your heart has already fallen in love with the animal and you want to keep him, but in your mind, you crunch a few numbers and wonder if your dog would agree to the new addition.
Yes, no. Yes, no. Yes, no.
Putting your emotions aside, you do what is best for the animal and decide to find a home for him.
Have you ever stopped in the middle of busy traffic to assist an animal that was hit by a car?
In this case, you experience different emotions.
First, panic sets in, and then adrenaline rushes through your veins. Finally, a feeling of helplessness sweeps over you like a dark cloud as you pick up the small, limp body with its broken leg and wonder, “Will it live?”
Traffic is waiting and only one other person gets out of their car to do something. Too bad all she does is pick up the animal and move it to the curb.
What are you doing? The animal is still alive and is obviously injured! To you, the solution is to just move it out of the way and keep driving?
You think this to yourself silently as you run over to the animal and pick it up gently.
You will take it to the clinic.
You are so panicked that you forget that there is a shorter route to the vet clinic from your current location.
As you impatiently wait for the stoplight to turn green, you hear the animal suffering and wonder if it is too late.
You finally arrive, run inside, ring the emergency bell.
The vets take over from there and you wait impatiently in the lobby.
I had never really thought much about cats until fate stepped in and put me in the right place at the right time.
The little kitten I found a few months ago is very lucky that his story has a happy ending. He was adopted they day after I found him by a cat lover. The woman even managed to find him a foster cat mom so he could nurse just a little while longer.
The vet I had taken him to said that he wasn’t even a month old when I found him.
The other cat was not so lucky. Either the person who hit him didn’t realize what had happened or they just decided not to stop.
I stopped, right in the middle of traffic.
It was obvious that he had suffered a terrible trauma, but I loaded him in the car and flew to my vet’s office.
He died shortly after.
I was devastated and heartbroken, plus I had to pay a €60 cremation fee since I was the one who brought him in.
He had a collar but no name.
He wasn’t neutered.
These two events made me start paying more attention to the cat world. All creatures have a special place in my heart, but since I have always preferred dogs, I followed everything “woof.”
Once I started following more cat pages and groups online, and after seeing a number of stories in the local newspapers about these “cat emergencies,” I finally realized the severity of the problem.
Actually two problems.
- Abandonment – For a private citizen who ends up with an unexpected litter of kittens, often the solution is to abandon the animals. The same goes for adult cats and owners who simply grow tired of the responsibility or the cost, and since adult cats are known for their independency, abbandoning the animal weighs less on the conscious since “it is such an independent animal.”
- Not Spaying or Neutering – Not enough people spay or neuter their pets, and communities and local governments in the Veneto region don’t have any programs set up to help make sterilization more affordable.
Dogs also face similar problems, but it is much worse for cats. It also happens everywhere in the world, but here in the gardens and fields of Veneto, the problem is silently growing.
Pick up any Italian newspaper from April to September and you will most certainly read about the “cat emergency” due to the number of abbandoned kittens. Social media news feeds fill with images of kittens and sad stories about them being discovered, yet many will never fully understand the problem until they find an abandoned kitten or stop in the middle of a busy street to pick up one that is dying.
It took these two things to open up my eyes to the issue, but after reflecting and searching for a positive side to these events, I was inspired to take action.
While there may be a cat emergency, we have yet to find an effective solution, and that is exactly why I would like to help l’ENPA Treviso (Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali) – a national animal protection organization in Italy – to share their message.
A Message from l’ENPA Treviso
After I found the abandoned kitten a new home, my concern for the problem grew. I began following numerous cat groups, Facebook pages and checked out the ads online for a good month to see how many cats needed a home.
Wow. I have no words.
From the middle of May when I found the abandoned kitten to today (late July), the numbers have skyrocketed at truly alarming rates.
One night, I came upon this cry for help from l’ENPA Treviso (located in northeastern corner of Italy’s Veneto region), I knew that I had to do something.
Those of you who can read Italian will understand what it says, but if you can’t then she wrote this to ask where serious help is from the Comunes and the Veneto region. She also asked, “Journalists, where are you?” and as soon as I read that, I knew I could share the message here.
She wrote this on June 25th, 2017.
On the 3rd of June, 2017, an article written by Brando Fioravanzi – a journalist whom I met during the Caseus Veneti cheese event last year in Piazzola sul Brenta – was published in Treviso Today (a local newspaper) regarding the cat crisis of l’ENPA Treviso.
“164 cats urgently in need of a home”
At the time I published this article, that number has soared to over 250, and it continues to grow. The cat facilities provided by the region are overflowing, and l’ENPA is desperately searching for volunteers who can open their homes temporarily until the peak abandonment season dies down.
I went on Google and did some research regarding the cat crisis, only to find an article from 2014 discussing the same problem.
“It’s getting worse every year,” said Claudia Mei, when I asked her on the phone what the pattern has been like the last few years.
I even discovered that while l’ENPA Treviso is a branch of the main ENPA organization in Italy, they do not receive money from said organization nor do they receive public financing to take care of the cats.
I went to the cat shelter in Conegliano recently to see for myself what the situation was like and to discuss it with Laura Merli, one of the volunteers who does a little bit of everything at the shelter.
“…for dogs, there is a minimal contribution from the local Comune, but unfortunately for the cats, such a contribution DOES NOT exist!
To care for all of the needs of these cats, we have to organize everything ourselves privately. We set up informative tables at events and hope that generous, caring people will offer us donations or food. We are trying to sensitize local authorities to the sterilization issue, but the response from the latter is indifference. “
Donations are crucial to their efforts, but they also require serious help from the Veneto region and local authorities to come up with a more serious sterilization plan.
How You Can Help
So, if the problem continues to grow and the Veneto region and local authorities aren’t listening, what can we do about it?
Share the Message
L’ENPA needs the help of professional media publication groups to send the message into the hands of the daily newspaper reader.
Bloggers like me who love animals can also write and share their opinions about the issue. We have the freedom to write more personal articles that people in the public can relate to.
Spay or Neuter
An animal’s desire to reproduce is too strong for humans to control. Quite often it is the owner who, even with good intentions tries to keep a cat indoors when in heat, ends up with unexpected litters.
The result is abbandonment, a “fad that never seems to fade” as ENPA Treviso has written in bold text on their homepage.
For many, cost is the biggest problem, which is completely understandable.
Just remember, however, that the cost of caring for a new litter of kittens from birth to 60 days is probably going to be more expensive than the cost of sterilizing the cat.
So is the cost of curing a female with mammary tumors.
Vet clinics are usually happy to organize payment plans, so you can always inquire at your clinic to see if the cost needs to be paid up front or if they would be willing to let you pay in installments.
You can also detract 19% of veterinary expenses from your annual fiscal declaration in Italy. I searched for “detrazioni spese veterinarie” on Google and found information explaining the percentages and the cost limitations.
Until this message arrives to the right ears, these are the only things we the public can do help make things “more affordable.”
Shelters are constantly in need of volunteers that can lend a hand. Do you have extra time you can donate?
Please remember that volunteering is a big commitment, and if you don’t see it that way, then it is probably not the right way for you to help.
Many people have good intentions when it comes to helping animals, but as soon as they they realize that there is way more time involved than anticipated, they abandon ship.
You need to treat it as any other form of employment: with respect.
While you may not get paid in money, the experience has many rich rewards to offer you and the animals, and your help is priceless.
Do you feel ready to welcome a new furry friend to your home, taking on the responsibility of its health and wellbeing?
Contact your local ENPA or another shelter to see which of their guests would be the right fit for your home and lifestyle.
Last year (2016), l’ENPA Treviso found a home for over 600 cats!
That is AWESOME.
In peak abandonment season, shelters and feline facilities are in need of a higher quantity of kitten products and many take donations in the form of online orders.
Contact your local shelter in Italy to see where you can have an order shipped.
The other choice is to donate money.
Ah, yes, I know what you’re thinking. For many of us, it is already difficult enough to keep up with bills, food, the mortgage, the car, and other necessities.
Listen up, though, because I happen to have a creative solution to this problem that I think you will like!
Don’t have the money? Just Collect It!
Each month, numerous friends and loved ones celebrate their birthdays.
In Italy, it is typical for friends or relatives to pitch in money to buy a single gift for the birthday boy or girl, and we all love to contribute to their special day.
It can be difficult when you know 5 or 6 people who all have birthdays in the same month!
When you spend 5 Euros here and 10 Euros there, the total can reach 100 Euros before you can bat your eyelids. You feel obligated, however, even if it puts a strain on you financially.
I didn’t like putting my friends in this position, and I don’t like being in this position.
The solution came to me a few years ago when I decided to change the tradition of the forced contribution by collecting donations for animals, instead.
Since my husband and I both share the same birthday, we decided to put out a donation jar where friends could put in as much money as they wanted.
1 euro. 10 euros. Or nothing.
The quantity isn’t important. It is a simple way to help animals without emptying your pockets and without forcing friends and family to pay fixed contribution prices.
The imporant thing is to spend some time together with the ones you love as you share a few glasses of Prosecco and laughs while you reminisce on old times. Physical gifts have meaning, but the gift of giving means so much more.
You can put that money to use in a variety of ways.
A few years ago, we bought some gas coupons for the pet ambulance in Friuli.
This year we did a Zooplus order (an online pet food store that is huge in Europe) for a cat shelter in Friuli.
It was just one week after we placed said order that the little cat in the picture below walked into my life.
And here I am writing this article.
Think about It
Will the photos that you see on your Facebook wall tomorrow morning of an abandoned animal make you think differently?
Next time that you are driving down the road and you see an injured animal, will you stop or will you continue driving?
Will you findally decide to spay or neuter your cat or will you leave it au natural?
Will this article make a difference, arriving in front of the right set of eyes, or will it be forgotten after a day just like all of the other articles written about the same issue?
The choice is yours.
Sharing the story and talking about the issue doesn’t cost you anything, and the more we talk about it, the closer we will be to a solution!