As dedicated an animal lover as I am, I have to make a confession: I've never tried to rescue one from the streets. The furthest I've gone is to grab the collar of a dog that was about to run from my front yard into a busy road. I've seen cats in parking lots and loose dogs running around neighborhoods, but I've always convinced myself that somehow they're going to be fine without my help.
Since a big part of my problem is ignorance, I sought information. Renae Glass, who works at Oglethorpe University, is an expert in not only rescuing cats and dogs, but in spaying/neutering and feeding feral cats on the campus. It is often expensive and time-consuming, but it's what Glass lives for. "It's one of those jobs that I lucked into," she says. "I'm a big cat and dog lover."
Working with an established rescue gave Glass the resources she needed to curb the feral cat population at Oglethorpe University 10 years ago, when she first started working there. A small gated community, the school was home to quite a few cats, most of which were feral. None of them had been fixed or vaccinated. Glass, working with the school's environmentally conscious student group, changed that.
After working with the county to obtain traps, she sets them up around campus. (Her preference is Tru-Catch, which reduces the chance that a tail or a leg can get caught.) To create a lure, she lays down newspaper coated with tuna in oil or mackerel from a can and trails it to the end of the trap. The cat is lured in and triggers the catch.
Glass makes sure all traps are checked before she leaves for the day. She takes the cats to Lifeline Animal Project, which spays/neuters and vaccinates cats for around $25. She then transports them back to campus and feeds them.
What started with feral cats, however, has snowballed into Glass working with several different rescue organizations. She tells me of an older woman in Jonesboro who called an animal rescue last week because she was on disability and was unable to afford feeding her dogs. It turned out that she was feeding them human food — and volunteers suspected that she was going without food herself to make sure her dogs ate. Within a few days, volunteers had offered to buy and transport dog food, and to make sure the woman found a program to help her take care of herself. "With everyone working together, the dogs have food for the month now," says Glass. "Now we're working on next month."
For Glass, animal rescue work is part of a wider mission. "There's a lot that goes on in our community," she says. "If people would just get involved with one elderly person, one child, one animal in need, the world would be a better place to live, period."
So what can you do the next time you see a cat or a dog running loose? Glass advises caution, but admits you might be pleasantly surprised. "Some dogs or cats will just come right up to you," she says. "Those are usually the most adoptable."
For info on rescuing feral cats and other resources, visit www.animalsaversrescue.org.