According to statistics from the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission, nearly three quarters of cats turned in or picked up last year were euthanized. Though some of those cats were likely sickly, some were likely not house-broken, trained or friendly.
These are not just lost pets. Many of these animals were the result of owners not spaying or neutering their pets. In other cases, owners may not want their pets anymore, so they leave them to fend for themselves outdoors.
This is enough to break the heart of any animal lover. If you're someone like Susan Libecki, it's powerful enough to make you take action. She committed herself to combat the overpopulation of animals and bring down euthanasia numbers.
Libecki co-owns the non-profit Second Hand Purrs, located just south of Bay View, with fellow cat lovers Sandra Gapinski and Jane Szulczewski. The shelter is a no-kill organization, and owners do everything they can to give these regal creatures a chance at survival, not to mention a loving home.
Prepping cats for adoption
The shelter houses about 20 to 24 cats and 10 to 40 kittens at a time. Libecki and her staff of volunteers keep a strict cleaning and sanitizing regimen, so cats can remain as happy and healthy as possible.
"I need a lot of people to help keep the place clean," she said. "Every cage that you see out there was stripped, sanitized, fresh food and water in the bowls, all the bedding was washed, the walls were scrubbed down … that's on a daily basis."
While the staff is cleaning, it likes to let the cats get out of their cages and move around. The shelter has a special nursery for kittens, so they can climb and play.
"The only cats that don't get out are the cats in quarantine," Libecki said. "It (quarantine) lasts two weeks and is mandatory for (new cats), regardless of where they come from.
"They go to the vet immediately and get a test for feline leukemia, one of the main killers for cats … Then they come back to us, we process them, fleabag them, check them for ear mites, get them de-wormed on a regular basis. If they are of age, and not already, they are spayed or neutered."
Cats also are immunized for rabies and distemper.
Finding good homes
Adopting a cat is simple, though the staff does have to make sure cats are getting good homes. The process starts with filling out an application.
Staff then checks the national abuse Web site and vet records to make sure the would-be owner has no history of endangering animals. Next, staff sets up an in-home delivery date following a short waiting period.
"If they fill out an application on Thursday, we might promise to call them back on Monday," Libecki said. "If they can't wait that long, then this is not the animal for them. Impulse buying creates so many animals … because you get it, take it home and realize 'I didn't know it would be like this.' "
Libecki and her volunteers prioritize acclimating the pets to their new environments.
"We do home deliveries only, where we go to everybody's house," she said. "Even if we have 15 adoptions in a week, I'm going to every single one of those houses. … If it's a special needs cat that is either diabetic or elderly or in need of special medication, it's easier for us to go and transition people."
Libecki said the screening process is necessary because the shelter will not permit an adoption if staff feels it is not in the best interest of the animal.
If, for any reason, a new owner cannot keep the cat, he or she may return it to Second Hand Purrs with no questions asked, and another cat can be selected if the owner is interested in giving it another try.
Spaying, neutering a priority
The shelter staff is working hard to spread that it exists and that it needs volunteers to help with the cats and educate the public on the importance of spaying and neutering.
"There should be spay and neuter laws," Libecki said. "I'm trying to work with vets to try and implement that."
Some people avoid spaying or neutering, saying it is not natural or noting they keep their cats indoors. But cats can often sneak out.
"People also don't realize that when she goes into heat, her chances for ovarian cancer skyrocket," Libecki said. "Isn't it much easier to just spay her than treat the cancer?"
Controlling the cat population would seem a good idea as Second Hand Purrs has a waiting list to accept cats that extends more than a year.
With so many animals to care for and so much work to be done, Second Hand Purrs is always looking for volunteers. The shelter's proximity to Bay View and St. Francis means it gets a lot of volunteers from those communities, though anyone in the South Shore is welcome to help.
Libecki tells people it's not always fun cleaning the shelter, which is what they need the most help with, but doing so is important for the cats' health and well-being. She tries to provide a balance and also gives volunteers time to work one-on-one with cats to prepare them for adoption.
"We have some great volunteers," she said. "If I could clone everyone I have now, we'd be great!"
Dan Cowan wants to stick his nose in your business. Contact him with tips for his Strictly Business column by e-mailing him at email@example.com.
At a glance
WHAT: Second Hand Purrs
WHERE: 4300 S. Howell Ave.,
WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. Thursdays and
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays
CONTACT: (414) 727-PURR or
GET INVOLVED: Second Hand Purrs is always looking for volunteers and animal sponsors and accepts tax-deductible donations.
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