Nfld. & Labrador

Cat rescuer says animal protection laws need tougher enforcement

A cat rescue volunteer says Newfoundland and Labrador needs better enforcement and funding programs in the province.

Scaredy Cat Port aux Basques stopping rescue work after 6 years, burnout a big factor

Bob Findlay holds orphan kitten Sasha, who was rescued in 2013. She was adopted by a family in Port aux Basques. (Submitted by Kathy Findlay)

Her very first rescue six years ago was a "baptism by fire" for Kathy Findlay.

She used dip nets to catch two mother cats and their kittens living outside in Isle aux Morts, and both she and her husband Bob ended up needing tetanus shots for bites they sustained dealing with the animals.

"I didn't realize wild kittens were quite that wild," recalled Findlay. "We had no clue what we were doing."

They've learned a lot since then — trapping, spay or neutering, and releasing more than 150 feral cats over the past six years with their group, Port aux Basques and Area Scaredy Cat Rescue. They've also found homes for 212 cats that had been abandoned, and still have nine in foster care.

Amber is one of the cats from the Findlays' first rescue in Isle Aux Mort. Her bite sent Bob Findlay to hospital for a tetanus shot, but now she is a cuddly, sweet-tempered member of the family. (Submitted by Kathy Findlay)

Findlay made the difficult decision to shut down the group this summer.

"What it all boils down to at the end is we're tired, physically and emotionally. You can only see so much death and suffering." 

Change of direction

Findlay now plans to focus her attention on helping animals in a different way, by fighting for tougher enforcement of the province's animal protection act. 

When the provincial government updated the legislation in 2012, it took authority for investigating animal neglect and cruelty complaints away from specially trained constables at the SPCA, and put it in the hands of the police instead. 

That's a move Findlay still has trouble understanding, and she said too many animals are suffering as a result. 

Kathy Findlay, who is known as Kat to her friends and family, has an appropriate nickname for someone who has been involved in cat rescue for more than 20 years. (Submitted by Kathy Findlay)

"Over the last six years I've come across quite a few incidences where there have been animals that were neglected or abused, and nothing was done. Nothing," said Findlay.

She said many officers who are transferred here from out of the province have never had to deal with animal complaints, and often their training doesn't adequately prepare them for it.

"I mean I've heard it a million times: 'Oh, I tried to call the SPCA and they they can't do anything.' And then you call the RCMP and you have to convince the people on the phone that this is a crime and that they're the ones who are supposed to look into it."

Getting to the root of the problem

Findlay also plans to lobby for a subsidized spay and neuter program for low-income pet owners. 

She said there are about 50 private rescue groups in the province putting their time and resources into helping feral and abandoned animals, but they're not making a dent in the problem.

These are two of the many kittens the Findlays have rescued over the years. (Submitted by Kathy Findlay)

"Let's be honest, a lot of people in Newfoundland struggle just to pay the power bill, especially in the wintertime, let alone to fork out $400 for a cat to get spayed," she told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show.

Findlay said she is giving all her equipment to a new rescue group in the area, and will support them in whatever way she can. However, she will now concentrate on the bigger picture.

"I would like to focus on bringing in this low-cost spay and neuter, because no rescues will ever, ever be able to get on top of the situation until the root of the problem is dealt with," she said.

"I'm not giving up on cats by any stretch. I'm just changing focus."

With files from The Corner Brook Morning Show

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