(Image from here.)
Following the sad affair of the doomed New Year kitten (see January 2), I dutifully turned up to the Animal Welfare League first thing on Friday morning for my Volunteer Information seminar.
This was a rather thorough three-quarters-of-a-day session in which those who have registered their interest (as I did a few days after I found the mangled kitten and sadly handed it over to them to be put out of its misery) turn up to be told a few home truths about human nature, infection, danger and cruelty, in order to determine who, knowing what we all knew by the end of the day, was still up for a few volunteer hours a week.
The Animal Welfare League is a South Australian organisation begun in the sixties by a woman called Joy Richardson who saw an injured dog lying in the gutter one day with people walking past and stepping over it, and in that moment, as the sweet and earnest instructor put it, 'found her passion'. The League works in tandem with the RSPCA, doing the same things except for inspections.
Here are some of the things I learned:
* 9,500 cats and kittens go through that place per year. That's more than 25 cats a day, in a city with barely a million people, and with the RSPCA as an alternative. Most of these cats are euthanased. Many of them are brought in by the same people several times a year: 'Oh, my cat's had kittens again, could you take them?' Naturally these people never donate any money, and nobody knows why they don't have their cats desexed. Too much money? Too much trouble? Or are they the sorts of people for whom sex is the main reason for living, and who therefore think it's a destruction of feline selfhood to excise cats' bits, and/or cruel to deprive cats of nookie?
* If your cat or dog goes missing, the first 72 hours are crucial. Most people are on the alert about dogs straight away -- but don't wait a day or two for your cat to come home, either. Ring all the animal shelters in your city as soon as you realise you haven't seen it for a while.
* Collars and tags are good, but microchips are better. Collars can be torn off on fences and trees, and can choke an animal who gets caught on something by a collar with no elastic panel.
* A dog terrified by something, usually fireworks, can escape from enclosures that a calm dog can't get out of. If it's a fireworks night or a thunderstorm, bring and keep your dog inside.
* After I get home from a shift I will have to shower, change and chuck my clothes in the washing machine before I touch my own cats. Because, among other things,
* ... one infected hair follicle can cause a ringworm epidemic. (Am I sure I want to do this?)
* Cats have a double or 'bicornuate' uterus. After multiple matings when they're in season, it's quite possible for them to produce a litter of kittens with up to four different fathers. Take that, you anti-promiscuity abstinence-peddlers.
* The shelter has a 'euthanasia room', from which we were instructed to avert our eyes. Oops, I've written 'euthanasia', and now every raving right-to-life Googler on the planet is going pop up like a rabid meerkat. Go away, please.
* But here's a nice one, running contrary to popular belief: every dog and cat that turns up at the shelter is extensively tested for temperament and health before it's put up for adoption. But once it passes the tests and is offered for adoption, it's kept until somebody takes it.
* "Dogs find out a lot of information about each other by smelling each other's bums. So when they sniff your crutch, they're just using their skill base."