Sacred Disorder | Cliff Bostock's blog – 'Finally, I came to regard as sacred the disorder of my mind' (Rimbaud)

This promotes animal welfare?



My favorite cat ever was Chester, a 20-lb. black and white cat I adopted from the Atlanta Humane Society when he was about 2 years old.  A friend used to call Chester “a dog in a cat suit,” because he was far more gregarious than the usual cat. People who usually didn’t like cats loved Chester.

Chester lived to about the age of 14. He was diabetic the last three years of his life and I had to give him daily insulin shots. During one of the most awful weeks of my life, I came home and found Chester having a seizure. I rushed him to the vet’s office, where he had to be euthanized. (He had lived much longer than expected.) This was the same week two good friends died of AIDS. Everything seemed to hit me at once in the vet’s office and I began crying uncontrollably. That was about 15 years ago and I still dream frequently of Chester.

Friday night, I stopped by the Ponce de Leon PetSmart’s adoption center, operated by a volunteer organization called Furkids. I saw a black-and-white cat named Spanky. His appearance naturally reminded me instantly of Chester. But then he also did exactly the same thing Chester did when I first saw him at the Humane Society. He stood on his hind legs and inserted a paw through the cage, waving at me. A kid standing beside me said, “That cat likes you.” I played with him through the cage and it was clear that he was hyper-affectionate, like Chester.

I resisted adopting him for a handful of reasons, including the fact that our two cats, Mr. Mew and Marlene, died in the last few years and I’m not anxious to have that brutal experience again. The more I thought about it, though, the more I felt inclined to adopt him. Wayne offered to go with me today, Saturday, to check him out again.

When we got to the store about 12:15 p.m., I went looking for someone to let Spanky out of his cage, so we could play with him a bit. But I couldn’t find anyone. A sign said that adoption center volunteers arrive there at noon on Saturdays. By 1:30 p.m. nobody had arrived. We called the two numbers posted on the door — and both of them were fax lines.

The store manager came by and suggested that we go ahead and fill out an application to adopt Spanky and she would see that Furkids got it. We did that and, as we were preparing to leave, a man showed up. We thought he might be the volunteer, but he turned out to be someone who had been trying for two weeks to adopt Spanky and had heard nothing about his application, despite the claim that they process apps within 72 hours. He also said — contrary to what PetSmart employees told us — that he never found anyone manning the place unless it was to clean the cages.

We were disappointed that he had filed an application before us, but he seemed like a very nice guy and I was glad Spanky was getting a good home. Well, that presumes anyone at Furkids eventually bothers to process the guy’s application.  Apart from my disappointment, I was astounded that an organization supposedly devoted to the welfare of animals would keep a cat in a small cage for two weeks when someone wanted to adopt him.

I told this to the store manager, who became very defensive, claiming the store had no control over Furkids’ operation. That made Wayne angry and he pointed out that she was holding our application, was going to file it for us and was in charge of the store that provides Furkids’ space. He noted, pointing to Spanky’s likely adopter, that it wasn’t true, as she had said, that volunteers were almost always there as scheduled.

Finally, Wayne said the store should at least require Furkids to post something on the cage when someone has made application to adopt a cat.  I pulled him away at this point. I haven’t seen him get that angry since he kicked the hell out of a bus in Turkey after an eight-hour nightmarish trip on it.

I know that it’s not easy to operate an organization on a volunteer basis, but if nobody’s going to show up, at least have a working phone number where people can leave a message. (The store manager did leave a message on a private line for us.) And if you’re going to say you process applications within 72 hours and can’t do it within two weeks, don’t say you’re putting the welfare of animals first. Spanky and the other cats in the PetSmart center seem to be functioning as marketing tools for Furkids, which has many more cats for adoption on its website.

In fairness, Furkids had a fundraiser scheduled for Saturday night at Variety Playhouse, so perhaps their volunteers were putting their energy into making preparations for that. But that’s why god gave us the power to post a sign on the door when schedules change.

I hope Spanky gets out of his damn cage soon! And I hope nobody else has to loiter there for hours, only to learn that someone else has already applied to adopt the cat they want.

(Photo of Spanky from the Furkids website.)

UPDATED MAR 31, 2010

To my surprise, I received a phone call yesterday from a volunteer with Furkids. She said she had about 10 minutes of questions she needed to ask me. I told her I was surprised that she called, given that someone else had filed an earlier application to adopt Spanky.

She told me that there had been some mix-up in communications with him. But, she said, order of application is only one consideration in deciding who adopts a cat. After some discussion about our negative experience at the PetSmart store, she proceeded to ask me a series of questions that reinforced my earlier sense that I was trying to adopt a human baby.

We would have to sign a contract that Spanky would never be permitted to go outside. Because Spanky is so social, there must be another pet in the house. (There was no explanation of who made this determination.) If that other pet was an indoor-outdoor cat, we would have to find a way to keep Spanky inside and we’d have to prove that the other cat’s shots were current by providing the name of a veterinarian she could call.

In our case, the “other cat” is Nubs, a neighbor’s cat that basically just moved in with us. I told the volunteer that I did not feel good about asking the neighbor if she’d kept Nubs’ shots current. (In any case, in the past we have used services that come to various venues every month or so to innoculate pets at greatly reduced prices.)

By this point in the conversation, at least 15 minutes, I was over it. I’d already reconciled myself to the fact that someone else had beat us in the application process, but I also found this interview process offensive. Some of the questions were obvious “trick questions” and, for being so, I found myself having to resist lying. I also found myself getting angry. I knew all of her concerns were legitimate but the bottom line, I said, is that Spanky has spent two weeks, probably more, in a small cage with minimal contact with anyone, even though two obviously competent people have tried to adopt him.

The volunteer explained that FurKids has over 400 cats for adoption, that it’s a no-kill shelter and thus can be pickier than the Humane Society about who can adopt its rescued cats. “The Humane Society kills a lot of cats,” she said. That’s tragic but it’s a very good reason to adopt at the Humane Society rather than Furkids. To me, this is an organization — a volunteer organization — whose good intentions exceed common sense in some regards.

Comment Pages

There are 4 Comments to "This promotes animal welfare?"

  • Cliff says:

    @Todd: Apparently, a small cage in a pet store is a better home than some of us can provide.

    @Stan: Apparently, my experience is business as usual. I’ll never adopt from them, not that I qualify.

  • Dear Cliff:

    As the founder and executive director of Furkids, it is my responsibility and privilege to respond to your comments about your experience with our organization.

    First, I would like to clarify a couple of factual points. Spanky arrived at the adoption center on March 18. The first applicant applied on March 19. Unfortunately, his application was incorrectly faxed in by our volunteer and therefore we were not aware of it until several days later. We have spoken with him and resolved the matter and he understands the situation.

    Please know that it is never our intent to disappoint or hurt anyone. Our mission is about saving homeless animals from the street, from kill shelters, from homes that can no longer care for them. Since our inception in 2002, close to 6,000 animals have been saved, vetted, altered and adopted into loving homes. We are the largest animal shelter in Georgia, caring for over 400 animals on a daily basis, with an annual operating budget of approximately $350,000. We have three full-time employees, a part-time veterinarian and veterinary technician, and about 200 active volunteers. We provide for our animals everything they need, including dental work, extensive surgeries, etc. It is our honor to serve the many animals that come through our doors and to serve our community.

    Please allow me to give you some history about how Furkids was started, as I think it is important to know who we are. On October 11, 2001, I discovered a mother cat and her three kittens in my backyard. I searched for days for a shelter to take them in and was unsuccessful in finding one that would guarantee that they would not be euthanized. I realized the terrible pet overpopulation problem that exists in Georgia, and believing wholeheartedly I had found my calling in life, I gave up a lucrative career to start Furkids and put my life’s savings into starting it up. The sacrifices that I have made and those of the many wonderful people of Furkids are too numerous to list, but it is our blessing to be in a position to serve these amazing animals. The mom cat that I rescued from my yard, I later learned through research, had been adopted as a kitten from Atlanta Humane. There was no follow up done to ensure that the adopter had her spayed. The adopter allowed her to be an indoor/outdoor cat and she became pregnant. He then moved away and left her alone, homeless with four kittens. One died from starvation before they made it to my backyard.

    So yes, Furkids has an application process and for good reason. It is our goal to ensure that our animals are going into homes that will make a lifetime commitment to them. That will provide their medical care, shelter and food. That will respect them and love them. Because of the great efforts we make to ensure their health and wellbeing, it is our obligation to secure them a good home. We work hard to be respectful of everyone’s opinion and if we differ, we encourage them to adopt from a kill shelter and save a life. Yes, most applicants are well intentioned and very competent. They are good people – we aren’t saying that the applicants we deny are not good people. We just have a differing of opinion.

    Our animals are housed in either our 5,000 sq. ft. cage free facility located in Gwinnett County, our foster homes, or at one of seven full-time adoption centers that we operate throughout Metro-Atlanta. We rotate our cats through our adoption centers where they stay for a few weeks and can meet the public. If not adopted, they are returned to the shelter or a foster home. We could not possibly afford these retail spaces and the valuable opportunity they provide for the public to interact with them and consider them for adoption. We are very grateful to PetSmart and Petco for providing these areas for our shelter and the many other rescues and shelters out there.

    Furkids is one of the only shelters in the Southeast that will take in FIV positive cats (feline AIDS) and we have approximately 30 of them currently. While veterinarians and other shelters encourage euthanasia, we are the shelter that works hard to educate the public about this virus and that it is not necessary to kill these cats. They can live long healthy lives.

    To Stan’s comment about shelters charging too much for adoption or more than others, our adoption fee is $85 for cats one year and older. This includes the cat being fixed, tested, all vaccines, microchipped, flea treated, dewormed and whatever else they need. To get that done retail at a vet would be at least $300-400. This doesn’t even include our overhead to ensure the cat’s health and wellbeing and provide the cat for adoption. I respectfully ask Stan to reconsider adopting from a shelter.

    Yes, there are some bad rescues out there. Furkids is not one of them. We will make mistakes and we always want to do better. We are sincerely sorry for your disappointment with our organization. We are very well intentioned and we are worthy of kindness and understanding. If you knew the inner-workings of animal sheltering at Furkids and the other reputable shelters in town, you would have a better appreciation of our challenges and accomplishments.

    Animal shelters in Georgia continue to suffer greatly due to the economy. Yet the work we do must go on. Just last week, we agreed to temporarily house five cats for a woman that lost her home. We fully vetted them for her at our expense. None were fixed or vaccinated. This is just one of the valuable services we provide members of the community. We really do work hard to be of assistance and we ask for your reconsideration.

    Please do not continue with the bashing of this fine and loving organization. Our good works and the quality of our organization far outweigh the mistakes we have made or any misunderstandings that have taken place. Know that we strive to do better and we will take what we need to from this experience and learn from it so that we can better serve our animals and our community.

    I welcome the chance to speak in person with you and to give you a tour of our wonderful shelter someday. Again, we are sorry you did not have a positive experience and we hope one day we will have the opportunity to change your perception of our organization.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Samantha Shelton
    Furkids Executive Director & Founder

  • Cliff says:


    Thank you for responding. (Most discussion of this post and its replies is on my Facebook page.)

    I don’t question the intentions of your organization. Nor do I believe an application process isn’t appropriate. My recollection is that the Humane Society also requires that certain criteria be met to adopt a pet.

    I do however find the extent of you application inquiry excessive. I think it should be up to the judgment of the pet owner whether a cat is allowed outside or whether it needs a “companion animal,” for example. There is something like an eerie classism in the assertion that if someone doesn’t like your process, they should visit the Humane Society instead.

    The issue here for me is the way some people feel treated by your organization — and it’s not just me — and that is not a problem that should be overlooked because of your good intentions. It’s not bashing. My further concern, as I said, is that you keep cats in cages for weeks at a time when obviously competent people try to adopt them.

    Thanks again for responding and for the work you do.

  • Cliff, I understand your frustration about the application. I adopted a cat from Furkids and like you, was taken aback at the extent of the questions. When I groused about it, Samantha Shelton, the Furkids executive director, explained. Furkids will take back a cat if the adoption doesn’t go smoothly, and Furkids doesn’t want to take back an animal. The idea is to make sure the animal is happy and the owner is happy. My husband and I have a dog, and one organization (not Furkids) wouldn’t let me adopt a cat that didn’t get along with dogs. “Oh, come on, they’ll work it out,” I said. “No, Charlie does not like dogs and we won’t put him in an environment where he won’t be happy,” was their response. Now I understand. And while the long Furkids adoption form is kind of a pain, it was worth every second of time to get Jack, our cat who is happy in our home with our dog and other cat. Furkids doesn’t want to get rid of animals; it wants to put its animals in happy homes all around. So I understand and accept the application procedure. As for keeping animals in cages for weeks at a time, Furkids keeps the majority of its cats in a cage-free environment, rotating them through the PetSmart and Petco locations to give people a chance to meet and interact with them. The temporary caging at PetSmart and Petco are a vastly superior option to the permanent cages at traditional animal shelters. Thank you for your post and for opening this line of dialogue. I hope you adopt a cat who will be perfect for you. It breaks your heart to lose a long-time pet, and it makes your heart sing to have a pet who loves you and your home.

Write a Comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.