Feral kittens. "You feed them, and play with them so they get used to human interaction."
KB has been helping feral cats for ten years. She traps them and then gets them spayed or neutered. Sometimes others in her rescuer network brings them to her. “You keep them in a separate room, you feed them, and play with them so they get used to human interaction. You take them to medical appointments to get their shots. There’s a lot of cleaning. You have to do a load of laundry every day. When they are 8-12 weeks old or weigh over two pounds, they get spayed or neutered and then they go up for adoption or get returned to the wild if they can’t be socialized. I cry like a baby every time I let them go.
KB with trapped ferals. "They usually only last six months on the average.”
“Their quality of life is very poor. They live in terror and fear. They usually only last six months on the average.”
KB doesn’t mind being known as the cat lady. Or that her cat love is a drain on her resources. “I was always unpaid. I would always drive [the pets] to adoption events. I’d even make cat blankets and kitten hammocks.”
But be prepared if you brush her off when she tells you a kitty needs help.
“I was visiting foster kittens in [the Oceanside] cattery. I was concerned about this one little guy. I went to the front desk and ‘I said there is something wrong with so and so.’ The kid says ‘We don’t have time right now.’ I said ‘This is an animal that needs taking care of right now.’ At which time he told me ‘You’re a crazy foster.’ That was ten years ago but it still sticks with me that I was viewed that way by a shelter employee.”
Family releasing a feral
KB says that incident “opened my eyes” to some employees' attitudes. “What happened with Covid, though, made me speechless.”
Oceanside’s cat shelter is run by the San Diego Humane Society which oversees two shelters in Oceanside and shelters in Escondido and San Diego.
KB says that the city of Oceanside should look at contracting with a different operator to look after its abandoned local animals.
“The shelter is no longer spaying or neutering the cats we brought in. I used to bring in as many as I could trap. Then they said because of Covid-19 they weren’t doing it anymore. I get the impression these people are greedy. They have greedy vice presidents who are getting paid but ignoring the needs of animals that they are now turning away.”
"One transporter brought me six kittens from Mexico that were buried alive"
The San Diego Humane Society website shows it employs seven vice presidents and 11 “directors” who oversee specific departments. Their fifth annual Day of Giving fundraiser held last month raised $606,624. They put out their own magazine and oversee such projects as the Animal Adventure Camp, the Shelter Medicine Program, and a Pet Loss Support Group.
One recent communication from executive director Gary Weitzman had a cute photo of Peaches, the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig looking for a home. It was pictured above a dog in a rainbow tiara wishing members “Happy Pride.”
“In March right after Covid hit their website showed just a few cats for adoption in Oceanside and they used to have 50,” says KB. I heard that when Covid hit and they stopped letting the public in. Where did all the cats go? Their staff says they are a no-kill shelter but the truth is they only keep the animals that they think are immediately adoptable.”
Jenny Major runs the Sunrise Rescue which is based in Oceanside but helps animals from throughout Southern California and Baja. She says that until her non-profit status is approved, she is operating as an independent rescuer.
“I get contacted ten times a day from people about cats needing help.” She says there is a vast Facebook network of animal rescuers. “I will take a lot of the tough cases. I paid for a $4000 veterinary bill for a mother cat that had pneumonia myself. I still owe $2,000 on it.
“When Covid hit in March a lot of the shelters just stopped taking animals and they stopped doing spays and neuters. A lot of that has to do with the sterile surgical gloves and the peroxide-based sanitizers being diverted away from the animals and towards human hospitals. All this happened just at the same time the kitten season hit. People would leave kittens outside a shelter under a bush and the shelters would tell the rescuers you better come get these kittens or they will be put to sleep. The shelters get help from the government but the rescuers rely only on donations.”
What’s worse, Major says, is that some people are now dumping their cats, “…because they think they will give them Covid.” On the other hand, “People who are getting depressed find that having kittens helps them get out of their depression.”
Major says she relies on low-coast clinics who only charge $55 for a neuter and $70 for a spay operation. “Other vets on the open market may charge up to $250 for a neuter or $600 for a spay. Some vets are taking advantage of us because they know that without the shelters we are desperate.”
Major says that many rescuers facing high vet bills are finding that it pays to transport sickly cats south of the border. “I have a transporter who will take a cat to Tijuana for X-rays and then she brings it back to me. There is one cat with a possible brain tumor that was looking at a $6,000 head CT [scan] up here but it was only $600 down there….One transporter brought me six kittens from Mexico that were buried alive in a bag under a bunch of branches. They were discovered by a dog who sniffed them out. I had one pregnant cat from Tijuana named Bazmorda who was pregnant, had a bad eye and was so constipated they thought she would die. That cost me $600. But she’s a happy cat who wants to live so here she is.”
Longtime volunteer Susan Kerner maintains that overall, animal rescue in Oceanside was greatly improved when it was taken over by the San Diego Humane Society in 2010. Before that it was run by the non-profit, independent North County Humane Society.
In 2006 the executive director of the North County Humane Society resigned following a Drug Enforcement probe into missing Vicodin tablets. Former director Stacy Steel pleaded guilty to using the ID numbers of three veterinarians who had worked for the Oceanside shelter to acquire the drugs for herself. When she left, the shelter was plagued by a massive staff overturn. In the four years after Steel’s departure, the North County Humane Society was led by four different executive directors and seven key personnel left or were fired.
After it took over in 2010, the San Diego Humane Society opened a second facility on Airport Road a year later so that cats and other small animals would be kept separate from the dogs that were housed at the original building on San Luis Rey Road.
Kerner says she doesn’t think there is another operation that could even realistically bid to take over Oceanside’s animal care contract.
Nina Thompson, acting marketing director for the San Diego Humane Society says spay/neuter surgeries has been resumed for the animals that they are sheltering. “No animals have been euthanized at San Diego Humane Society due to Covid-19. In fact [SDHS] has not euthanized a healthy or treatable shelter animal since 2002.” Thompson says the shelters are now open through appointment only. “There are currently 19 cats available at our Oceanside campus (sdhumane.org/adopt). The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically reduced the number of animals coming into our shelter locations. One reason is that more people are home which means fewer animals have gone stray. San Diego Humane Society never closed due to COVID-19. We have remained open through the entire pandemic."