Letter: The case for cats

Recently, the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors granted zoning approval for the cat rescue group, RappCats, allowing them to open the first county cat shelter. But the board did not recommend funding for it in this year’s budget.

Before its final vote on Monday (June 3), we ask the board to reconsider and to allocate funds for the cat shelter, as it generously did for RAWL, the county’s dog shelter ($57,000). And we ask you, our readers, to call your supervisor today to ask him to vote to financially help us.

RappCats’ shelter will be at the Vierlings’ packing shed in Flint Hill, behind Mullany Art Studios. Courtesy photo.
RappCats’ shelter will be at the Vierlings’ packing shed in Flint Hill, behind Mullany Art Studios. Courtesy photo.

RappCats is a private, non-profit cat rescue organization.

We spay and neuter cats, provide homes for homeless cats and vet services for those rescued by the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office and citizens, and daily respond to the needs of Rappahannock residents, especially those unable to afford food and veterinary care.

Since we started six years ago, we have subsisted through the generosity of private citizens.

Because cat homelessness and overpopulation are community problems requiring a community solution, we have asked the board of supervisors to join in an innovative public-private partnership to address those problems. The supervisors seem indifferent to the health and humane issues homeless cats present.

In rejecting our offer, they appear to be saying four things: Rappahannock County has no problem with homeless cats; the county government does not have to follow state law requiring them to impound neglected and abused cats; residents, regardless of their financial position, should pay out of their own pockets when a homeless cat is dumped on them; and humane treatment of discarded pet cats is not in their purview.

Most homeless cats are not, as many believe, feral. They are discarded pets who can’t fend for themselves in the wild. It is cruel to dump them and it is cruel to leave them there.

The county has a dilemma: State law requires it to help injured, abused and neglected cats and it must impound those that are abused or neglected, yet it does not comply. Unlike dogs, the county is not required to pick up a cat just because it is a stray (although nearly every other Virginia county does).

Unlike our elected representatives, the county’s employees understand the law. We work cooperatively with the animal control officers of the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office, who regularly respond to reports of injured, abused and neglected cats. But when an officer picks up an injured cat and transports it to a vet, the county has nowhere to take the cat afterwards and calls RappCats. Frequently, RappCats ends up with nearly 100 percent of the vet bill.

With little financial resources, we try to do what we can. Is it appropriate for the county to dump its problem on a non-profit rescue organization without paying for it?

We have asked the supervisors to formalize this public-private partnership. In return for paying about a third of our operating costs, we have offered to keep helping the county and its animal control efforts. The rest of our costs will be supported by private contributions.

We don’t think our $16,500 request is unreasonable. It is about five ten-thousandths of one percent – .0005 percent – of Rappahannock’s annual budget, or about $2.50 per county resident.

But, if the supervisors deny all funding, it will make it almost impossible for us to help. We do not know what the county government is going to do with those cats. We expect our leaders will not want to violate the law. We also expect that our county officials want to act humanely when faced with the needs of dumped pets.

Even without a shelter, the following is a small part of what RappCats has done these past six years – situations where the county turned its back on its citizens:

A family locked 19 cats in a home in the dead of winter and walked away. Although the owners should have been prosecuted, the county refused to even respond when a neighbor called, claiming that the cats were all “feral.” Instead, RappCats and other groups rescued those cats, arranged medical treatment and found them homes. 

An elderly man walked up to RappCats’ volunteers at an adoption event at the Rappahannock Farmers Co-op. He was in tears because someone had dumped a mother and six kittens on him. He and his wife are old and not well. He took those cats to RAWL, as well as the Culpeper and Warren shelters, and no one would take the cats. 

What were these folks supposed to do? According to our board of supervisors, it is the county residents’ problem, RappCats’ problem or the sheriff’s problem – and our supervisors want none of it.

In their budgetary work session on May 15, these elected officials announced their plan to deny even a fraction of our request. The board of supervisors will formally vote on the budget on Monday, June 3. People who care about the humane treatment of animals should call their supervisor and ask him to do the right thing.

On behalf of the board of directors of RappCats – John Bourgeois, Bob Kramer, Mary Ann Kuhn, Katherine Leggett Miller, Esther Schmidt, Franklin Schmidt and Beverly Sullivan,

Pat Snyder
RappCats president

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