Lower Mainland rescue finds homes for dozens of cats fleeing fire near Merritt
Shelter seeking temporary housing for 130 cats while the city remains on evacuation alert
When Melina Csontos heard that the Nicola Valley Animal Rescue Society needed to relocate about 130 cats while Merritt is on evacuation alert, she immediately offered to help.
Csontos is the executive director and founder of the Cat Therapy and Rescue Society, an organization based in Mission, B.C., in the Lower Mainland. She has worked with the Nicola Valley rescue many times in the past.
She said the woman who runs it, Angie Koczkur, called her and said, "We have 130 cats in our care and we might have to evacuate. And we don't know what to do and we don't know where to go."
The City of Merritt has been on evacuation alert since Sunday, when the nearby Lytton Creek fire became more aggressive.
With so many animals to move, you can't wait until the last minute to act, Csontos said. "It's a lot of cats to place and organize all at once."
"We desperately need fosters," said Betty Ann McDonnell, one of the board members for the Nicola Valley Animal Rescue.
"Placements out of our area for all the cats, all the ones at the rescue."
Although her society has limited capacity to foster the cats at the moment, Csontos said staying idle was not an option.
"If they don't have any placements for them all, they would have nowhere to go and that's just not an option for rescues to leave animals behind," she said.
She put a call out for help on social media. With the help of her organization's pre-existing network of foster homes, Csontos was able to find temporary accommodation for about 30 cats.
"We're just working as fast as we can to do this," she said.
She drove from Mission to Merritt to pick them up on Friday. Volunteer drivers helped her distribute them to homes across the Lower Mainland, and by the evening all had been housed.
The rest of the cats, including feral animals, need to find fosters. McDonnell said they are hoping to find a feral cat colony that can take them in.
She said she and Koczkur were very grateful for the support they have received so far.
"We appreciate from the bottom of our hearts all those people who have reached out," she said.
"It means a great deal and it keeps everybody working for another day and feeling like they can just keep moving forward."