Dorothy Andrews loves helping cats but with limited money and help, running a volunteer based shelter is becoming a challenge.
Andrews manages TLC Animal Shelter in Digby, a shelter that aims to help stray and homeless cats. They do help dogs too but usually dogs are sent to foster homes so they get the daily family interaction they require.
TLC prides in never saying no to an animal. When the shelter becomes full, they make arrangements for cats to be fostered or they help families rehome the cat without taking it into the shelter.
“When we’re full, we’re full. But we’ll never just say no,” she said.
Recently, there’s been a spike in animals being dumped. Sometimes animals are left outside the shelter or nearby in the woods. Last week the shelter door was mistakenly left unlocked and individuals came in and dumped 11 cats and kittens inside.
A senior volunteer was cleaning the shelter when she heard people coming in. She noticed cats running throughout the building and a group of people trying to take off.
TLC has never had disease spread in the shelter. This is because they are always cleaning and when new cats come in, they keep them isolated until the vet can confirm the animals are not sick.
When people come and dump animals inside the building, this is a risk because volunteers don’t know anything about the new animals.
“Not only that but when you have that many cats in one place, there could have been the biggest cat fight ever,” said Andrews.
The shelter does have rules and regulations it’s important to follow when taking a cat in.
“We want to help but we need people to communicate with us too.”
The shelter has identified the individuals who dumped the cats. They were unwilling to work with shelter volunteers and drove away abandoning the cats in TLC’s care.
Most of the cats were placed into a foster home. But volunteers had to convert a shed into a temporary home for two of the adult cats dumped.
The shelter runs off a slim budget.
Andrews and her husband have spent their retirement fund on the shelter because without dipping into their own funds, they wouldn’t still be operating.
“I put my whole life into this, my husband and I.”
The shelter building is aging and over the last two years they had to spend some of their operating funds on a new sewer system and a new furnace.
This took a toll on their spending budget.
TLC applied for funding this year but only received a quarter of what they asked for.
The shelter does receive donations from the public, usually of food and litter.
“We are so thankful when someone does something like that. We could never stay open without them.”
Having a shelter run completely by volunteers is hard work because people only have so much free time.
They used to be eligible for grants to help pay staff to be at the shelter for longer hours, but money is tight so unfortunately, they can no longer afford to pay anyone.
“We’re at the point where we need more assistance but we’re getting less.”
Andrews figures she’s working more now than she did when she was younger.
“I’m here way more than I’m home.”
With tight space at the shelter, she has even taken eight cats home with her because they need special care.
“I care for all these animals, they aren’t just strays to us. This isn’t just a shelter, it’s a home.”
The shelter is always looking for volunteers and donations. Without it, they may not be able to stay open.
“We’re taking it month by month right now, we really need all the help we can get.”