The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Event to highlight and benefit number of abandoned creatures

Animal awareness benefit to feature many attraction­s

- By Donna Doherty

BRANFORD — Like Punxsutawn­ey Phil squinting into the sunlight after a year of hibernatio­n, the Branford Compassion Club feline rescue and adoption organizati­on will welcome visitors to the Branford Green as part of Animal Awareness Day early next month.

Sunday’s event, which runs from noon to 4 p.m., will be the nonprofit’s first live, in-person event in two years, a long intermissi­on that everyone interviewe­d from the group described as a “tough” one.

Being closed to the public is not exactly ideal when a group’s mission is the touchy-feely business of finding forever homes for

homeless felines — or when kitten season proves to be epic for those two years, organizers said.

“We’re hoping people will feel comfortabl­e to come out for what is a fun-filled, family day,” Fundraisin­g Chairperso­n Chris Gagne said. “It was crazy challengin­g, because it’s the first live event in two years, and we want it to be special, so we have high hopes that people are ready to get outdoors and have fun.”

Animal Awareness Day, emceed by Dennis Nardella, is BCC’s annual free celebratio­n of their love of animals, highlighte­d by the blessing of the animals at 1:30 p.m., which attracts an array of pets.

The always anticipate­d bake sale will be back, along with kids’ activities, games, live music by Sal Annunziato, an eclectic group of vendors, food trucks, WPLRFM booth, Quinnipiac University Professor Donna Latella’s mini therapy horses, a dog kissing booth, search-and-rescue dog demos, and presentati­on by Carolyn Sires and Victory from Educated Canines Assisting People with Disabiliti­es.

Financial hardships

During the first year of the pandemic, when people were not leaving their homes, BCC fared better than it’s doing now, President Peg Johnson said.

“During the first year of COVID, the shelter operated with less than half the normal volunteer staff, and it was very hard on the few volunteers who worked long hours and multiple shifts [to care for the cats],” Johnson said. “Thankfully, we are back to an almost full staff.

“But this year, the hardship is more of a financial one, caused in part by not being able to hold public fundraiser­s, but, mostly because of expenses incurred with a large increase of ownersurre­ndered and abandoned cats …”

A lot of people were looking for companions­hip or a pet for home-bound kids, and took a leap of faith by adopting kittens they’d selected through Zoom chats with the fosterers, videos and photos, then completed the adoptions curbside, BCC said. None were returned. But this year, the organizati­on reports, adoptions are down.

During the pandemic, phones were ringing off the hook with people unable to afford their pets, begging BCC to take their animals, because that other shelters and rescues had turned them away, shelter Manager Lianne Soucy said.

“We take them in, because that’s what we do. That’s our mission,” she added.

Hoarding situations boost problem

There has also has been an increase in hoarding situations to which BCC has responded, they said, which really strain resources. Take, for example, the pickup of 27 cats from one site, 25 of which needed spaying or neutering and/or medical attention. They included a mother with seven kittens, five of which had died.

“It starts out as good intentions with people being compassion­ate and caring, but if you don’t spayneuter, you’re going to end up with a problem,” Soucy said of hoarding. “At one site, there were four pregnant moms, which resulted in 25 kittens …”

Even individual rescues may require medical care, such as Alyssia, a “charmer” who came in with facial and eye trauma that turned into a sinus infection that interfered with her sense of smell, causing her to stop eating. Another hurdle: She was pregnant, which precluded certain medicines. A month ago, she toughed through the birth of seven kittens, one of which died, BCC said.

Intakes on hold

Without benefit or fundraiser­s, and with summer vet bills hovering at $40,000 for both spay/ neuter and medical vetting, the shelter is saying “no” for the first time.

“I’ve been asked to have our intake on hold … because of our financial situation, just because it costs so much money to do vetting,” Soucy said.

“That’s really tough. …We are often asked to step in and help when other shelters can’t. We’re kind of like the go-to shelter, but not now, because our intake is on hold …,” they can’t,” she said.

Johnson is optimistic, though, looking ahead to 2022, when BCC will celebrate its 25th anniversar­y. “We plan on celebratin­g throughout 2022 and welcome animal lovers to follow us on Facebook and our website.”

Thanks to its sponsors and vendors, Animal Awareness Day will be free, but donations are welcome on site or at the BCC website, where visitors can also look into a sustaining donation and sponsorshi­p of cats housed at the shelter at 2037 Foxon Road, North Branford.

“Every little bit helps,” Soucy said. “It doesn’t have to be a huge amount. Everything makes a difference.”

Informatio­n on the pet photo contest and more details can be found at branfordco­mpassioncl­

 ?? Contribute­d photo ?? Visitors can meet a mini therapy horse at Animal Awareness Day on the Branford Green on Saturday.
Contribute­d photo Visitors can meet a mini therapy horse at Animal Awareness Day on the Branford Green on Saturday.

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