DEAR JOAN: I volunteer for an East Bay rescue group and answer the phone line. There are daily calls from people desperate to rehome their cats, sometimes for reasons not especially heart-wrenching but often for the same reason given by Gina, in her letter addressing surrender fees.
I share your feelings about dumping cats, and I know the animals have little chance at any quality of life, but what are the options? Most of the private rescues are full with a perpetual shortage of fosters, meaning no room for new cats.
Public shelters are pretty much the only place available, and the owner's residence comes into play. For example, the Martinez shelter won't take Antioch cats because Antioch has a city shelter. Antioch's shelter is small, and those wanting to surrender a cat are frequently told that the animal will be euthanized for lack of room, and that is after paying a surrender fee.
Most people can't get family members to take even a beloved pet left behind by a deceased parent, let alone one from a family member that has fallen on hard times.
So if someone has lost a home, can't find a private rescue to take the cats, can't find an apartment that will take pets, and can't afford to surrender the cat, what should she do? I discuss these options with people every day, and solutions are few and far between.
I would welcome suggestions from anyone with ideas. I also wonder why public shelters don't have a hardship clause where they could take animals whose owners simply can't pay the fee.
DEAR JANE: Thanks so much for your perspective from the front lines, so to speak. I would love to open a dialogue on this subject.
Readers, what do you think? I'm looking for personal stories and suggestions on what society as a whole can do to help solve this problem.
DEAR JOAN: Can you remind us what to do or not to do when we see Mama Duck and her babies crossing the street?
Today I saw the family cross Mayhew Avenue on their way to the back of Concord Feed. I always wonder if Mama is looking for water and if there is anything I can do to help.
Betty Young Weber
DEAR BETTY: Letting them go about their way is probably the best thing you can do. In high-traffic areas, you can be an escort, alerting drivers to their presence. You could also help keep dogs and curious bystanders away, but otherwise, Mama Duck knows what to do and where to go. Keep a safe distance and never try to pick up the ducklings. That could lead to the birds panicking and running into trouble.
On a related note, if you're driving and see animals in the road, slow down and give them time to get out of the street. However, police and safety officials tell us that one of the most dangerous things we can do is brake suddenly to avoid hitting an animal. If we are in traffic or have someone following close behind us, we could end up causing an accident.
I know that braking is instinctual, but please be aware of where you are and what's going on around you. Just the other day I witnessed an angry confrontation between two drivers. One had slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting a ground squirrel running across the road. The driver behind him almost rear-ended him and swerved into the opposite lane, which, thankfully, was empty. The men then almost got into a fist fight at the stop sign.
It's a jungle out there.
Joan Morris' column runs five days a week in print and online. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.