Monday, October 25, 2010

Black Cat Musings

Ok, it’s October. Halloween is almost here. And what do people involved in animal welfare think about during this time of year? Black cats, of course.

Black cats have gotten a bad rap throughout history. In most places, they have been victims of superstitions and negative preconceptions. We’ve had it pounded into our brains that they’re bad luck and associated with witchcraft and the occult. And if that isn’t enough, they are one of the animals most likely to be euthanized in shelters. They are very frequently overlooked at adoption events or shelters. They don’t stand out in cages, they often have indistinguishable features, they can be considered “plain” when compared to other cats.

I live with a black cat. One of the best decisions I ever made was 12 years ago when I adopted her. She had been a victim of animal abuse - someone set her on fire. Her injuries were extensive but she received good veterinary care and survived. When she was strong enough, I took her home, named her Salem and she’s been part of my family ever since. She limps and has scars and is missing parts of her ears, but she is beautiful to me. She’s happy and sassy and I love her more than words can say.

But what does any of this have to do with October and Halloween?

At a recent staff meeting, my co-workers and I had a conversation about whether or not black cats should be adopted out in October. There are many shelters and rescue groups who suspend adoptions of black cats (and some even all cats!) for fear they will be tortured. Others continue adoptions as normal. There are mixed feelings on the subject here at NMHPU.

Suspending adoptions. The conventional wisdom is that this is necessary to protect them from bad people with evil intent, specifically satanic cultists who use them for ritualistic killings. But is the concept that they face more dangers at Halloween time real or just urban legend?

I did an informal internet search, and everything I read stated that there are NO statistics to back up claims that incidences of satanic rituals involving black cats go up at Halloween.

The truth of the matter is that animal abuse occurs ALL YEAR. It’s not a seasonal occurrence; it’s an everyday reality for many animals. And satanic cults are not the ones responsible for the majority of the torture – it’s pranksters, trouble-makers, budding psychopaths and people who have no respect for life. And cats do indeed face danger from such people at Halloween, as well as every other day of their lives.

What other stresses and dangers do black, and all other, cats face at Halloween?

1.People who adopt them to use them as costume accessories and “living decorations,” and then return them after the holiday. (This one surprised me! Who would think to do such a thing??)

2.Noise and commotion

Point #1 is enough to make one feel adoptions should be suspended! That added to the potential threat of animal abusers makes you want to suspend adoptions of black cats forever! However, I really don’t think this is necessary as long as agencies have a solid screening process for adopters. Being thorough in screening should ensure the animals go to good homes. There ARE good homes out there, and you don’t want any cat to miss out on being seen by a great adopter. Plus, denying adoptions only gives the public the wrong idea about black cats – possibly reinforcing stereotypes – and not letting people see how lovable they are.

But when you get right down to it, the best thing you can do to protect your cats from Halloween dangers and stresses is to KEEP THEM INSIDE. At NMHPU, we believe pet cats should be inside all of the time. When they live indoors, they are safe from cars, fights with other cats, attacks by dogs and predators, people with bad intentions, getting lost...….the list goes on and on. If your cats are safely indoors, you don’t have to worry about any of these factors in October, or any other time of the year.

Salem was set on fire in October. Who did this horrific thing to her? Was it part of a satanic ritual? Was it teenage boys being bad? Was it someone on the path to becoming a human murderer? Did her abuse have anything to do with Halloween, or was it just a coincidence that it happened during that time of year?

I will never know.

What I do know is that come Halloween weekend, Salem will be inside with her favorite person – warm and safe and loved. Something I wish for all of the cats out there, whatever color they may be.

Danielle Slaughter
Fundraising and Event Director

P.S. We have many wonderful black cats in our adoptions program! Carlos loves to play fetch (he brings back the ball!)! Alice is young and petite and cuddly. And there are many more… Check them out at our Adoptions page!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Meet Erin Olsen, our new adoptions coordinator!


Seven months ago, I was feeling pretty bummed about life. I'd been moping around after being laid off my marketing job three months earlier, and I finally decided I should snap out of it and do something with my sudden increase in free time. So, I signed up to volunteer with No More Homeless Pets in Utah.

It started as a way to get my "dog fix," since I didn't have a pet of my own. I found myself helping out at weekend adoption events and at GCP, where dogs in our program await their foster homes. One shift turned into two and three per week, and every weekend I was making time to help at adoptions. Not even two months in, I was asked to join the Canine Casino Night event committee.

I started meeting all sorts of great people, all enthusiastic about giving every ounce of time, love, and commitment to the No More Homeless Pets in Utah animals. That enthusiasm is so contagious, and my time commitments and responsibilities with No More Homeless Pets grew. Spring Super Adoption, Strut Your Mutt, Canine Casino Night—you name it, I was there, ready to help anywhere I was needed.

And then I suddenly noticed Carmella. One of No More Homeless Pets in Utah's tougher dogs to handle, Carmella had been in the adoptions program for over a year and a half. Her gregarious personality had always intimidated me at adoption events, but I started to notice a sort of depression set in with her. So, I decided to steal her for a day from GCP and take her on a hike to cheer her up. She hasn't been back there since.

An hour after the hike, Carmella was curled up on my couch, and I was pondering ways to seek approval to keep her there indefinitely. And suddenly, I was a dog foster mom. Carmella goes everywhere with me I can possibly take her - the cool tiled laundromat is one of her favorite destinations. She also loves camping and has explored Goblin Valley State Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Moab over the last two months.

After almost four months of touting my foster dog around, I realized she and I were very comfortable with our companionship, and I decided to make my home permanent for her. While serving as a Dog Tent Captain at the Fall Super Adoption, I adopted Carmella and relieved several long-time volunteers and NMHPU staff from the mutual wonder of "How much longer will Carmella have to wait for her forever home?"

She has found it. And I have found mine: This evolution of volunteer work, experiential learning in event leadership and fundraising capacities, foster care experience, and now proud adoptive dog motherhood has led me to find a new position of employment and my "forever home" as part of the No More Homeless Pets in Utah team. I am so grateful to have been chosen to serve as the new Adoptions Coordinator. I've already met so many wonderful staff members and volunteers, and look forward to getting to know many more as we all work toward our mission to end the euthanasia of cats and dogs in Utah. I'm ready to work hard and Save Them All!