Britney Fox Hover, Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society
Yeah you tuned in minicabs podcasts reading. Let's go welcome to the community cats. Podcast I'm your host Stacey Lebaron. I've been involved helping homeless cats for over twenty years with the Meramec River Feline Rescue Society. The goal of this podcast is to expose you to amazing. People were improving the lives of cats. I hope these interviews will help you learn how you can turn your passion. Her cats into action. Today we're speaking with Britney Fox over Brittany is the shelter director at the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society and overseas the adoption program. She started volunteering. With 'em are for us in two thousand nine became a part-time staff person in two thousand eleven while working in finance. She was hired fulltime as medical coordinator in two thousand twelve and became shelter director in two thousand fifteen. She's also an active foster home and likes to specialize in critical care cases. She loves all animals domestic and wildlife but is particularly passionate about promoting feline welfare. She currently lives in Maine with her husband. Two children dog and five cats Brit. I'd like to welcome you to the show. Thank you so very much for having me. Well this is family. We're having family day at the community. Cats podcasts as many folks. No obviously that I've had a lot of experience with Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society. It very much involved in very passionate about the organization and Brit has been awesome to stay involved and working hard and providing great leadership for the Organization for it. I WANNA I ask you before coming to us. What made you a cat lover. Well I did not grow up with cats. Most people find that very interesting but I only had dogs and it was a kitten that my aunt found in a parking lot. He was Kinda scratched up and he looked very sad and she. She rescued him and she brought him to the police station in our town and no one claimed him so my husband then boyfriend at the time he said I'll take him and he had never had a pet before in his whole life. So we got this kitten. Neither of US knew what to do. You know we kind of figured it out as we went along and we completely fell head over heels in love with Rupert. He is no longer with us but he really is my inspiration for finding my passion and my career in my life so I have a lot to thank him for from their Robin. I really learned what wonderful intelligent amazing creatures cats are and We wanted to get more involved. We lived in Amesbury at the time and drove by the shelter and we saw the sign and said you know we really. We really got to check this place out and we applied to volunteer. And the rest is history. I did volunteer at the Bangor. Humane society up in Bangor being when I went to college so he had a little bit of shelter experience and so at the time. Janet who is our volunteer coordinator. She said okay. You have experienced right downstairs and into our room at our quarantine room and I was like okay and I I like a challenge that I really like learning so for me. It was an opportunity to do that for cats who I had just recently discovered I loved so much and fell head over heels for shelter medicine working with cats and just really opened my eyes to a whole new world that I didn't know existed so you know it's sort of the rest is history as they say but cats and feline welfare are something that just so truly important to me. And that's why I'm here. So as you discovered the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society. Maybe share with folks a little bit about the organization and the programs and what makes it different from other organizations. That you've been around. Yes so when I started. I didn't have a great idea of on the animal welfare community and what was going on in other shelters but when I started at the MRI for us. I saw the cats that the shelter were taking care of and it really realized that these are animals that needed a lot of help in a lot of care and really had a wonderful chance to find home and the people who cared for them were so dedicated and committed to not only Finding these animals from home but rehabilitating them before they did that and so the more I worked at the time for us the more I realized that we took in animals stat. Maybe other shelters just didn't know a lot about or didn't have resources to care for. I had interactions early on with feline leukemia. Cats Feline Leukemia kittens. There was a Persian. Kitty named mugs. Who was so sick and he had a lot of problems and I just really realized that. There's a lot of animals and a lot of cats out there that need a lot of help. And that's why the morale for us Was Really special to me. Was that they were taking animals from our community other shelters rescue groups animals that without. Mr For us did not have much of a chance. And so that's really what ignited my passion for taking care of cats and kittens. That just really compromised in need a lot of help. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel that these animals can really live and thrive. So it's really amazing to see that journey and get them there and for us is really committed to helping them along that journey and that that is really super important and special to me so one thing that Mri France has done quite a bit over the years. As as you've mentioned the feline leukemia positive cats. What are the greatest challenges when dealing with feline leukemia positive cats and why is it important that we work so hard to try? Get them adopted. You know I kind of look at the challenges on two major fronts. One of them. Is that the cats are immuno-compromised so when they're coming into shelter which for the most healthy and robust of cats can be a really stressful experience. These kitties have compromised immune systems so that creates an even bigger challenge to keeping them healthy and then on the other side of it is adoption recognizing that we are not necessarily a sanctuary that we are in adoption program for these kitties so we need to work with a ball and work with members of the public to make sure people understand the disease and the disease process. Make sure they understand with these kids need but also show them that these cats look healthy and they look happy because they are when they are not showing signs of their disease and they're sort of in that middle point they look like a regular cat and so many people see that so. It's really nice to be able to show them. These animals have such great quality of life. Just like a regular cat and we can get them a home and you know a family and that they have the ability to live out their years whatever they have left happy and healthy just like a normal cat. So that's why it's really important to find these guys. Homes is their quality of life is typically very good. When they're not showing signs of the disease they just look like a regular cat and they deserve our love and our support just like the other kitties that we take in. Is it common? That many people when they adopt feline leukemia positive cats and then the kitty does pass away. They tend to come back to adopt more. Yeah absolutely we have repeat adopters. Feline Leukemia Cats. I usually tell people I see it. Go two ways. I see people that adopt the Feline Leukemia. Kitties and they lose their first one and they kind of say you know. This isn't for me. I'm GONNA come back and get another kitty but want you know a nonfeeling Kimmy Kitty and of course were sensitive to that but more often than that we get people that come back and they say okay now needs a home and those people really inspire me. Every day. We have a couple of people I can think of off hand to really focus on the feeling that Kimia kittens that don't have even as long a life span as the adults and they really are committed to taking these kittens and giving them a family a home for as long as they have and those people are really incredible to me. Telecom consultants is proud to offer all community cats podcast listeners. A complimentary telephone electric natural gas. Bill cost savings analysis for their businesses. Our main goal is to save money on these services for businesses on a monthly basis. We truly appreciate the opportunity to be a lead sponsor for this podcast as we support animal. Welfare please call six one seven to nine zero three three seven four for your complimentary analysis. Enjoy the show. Six months ago now I was in Chicago and I was able to visit the treehouse. New Big adoption center was Wonderful Tree House humane society and they have a cat cafe in their cat cafe. They have feline leukemia. Positive kitties if you could have anything in the world. Would that be something that would interest you absolutely like anything else? It's taking the stigma away from these animals that are labeled with a disease and being able to go into area for the public and see these cats running around playing being normal cats. I think that is an incredible way for people to understand. Feeling the Kimia and to remove that stigma that is attached to them. Sometimes I think the biggest most amazing thing for our volunteers and our staff is that they see the feline leukemia. Kitties happy and healthy an all admit when I first started at the shelter volunteering. I didn't understand fluke. I didn't know feeling a KIA and my husband was mortified to go in our feeling leukemia. Rome because he was afraid. Bring it to our cat and it's just over a short amount of time realizing that okay. The rest of the cats in this building aren't getting it and these cats really happy and healthy and just seeing it with your own eyes is really a truly powerful way to change people's minds. I think a cat cafe is a wonderful way to welcome people in to see the cats and see them thrive. And I think that's fantastic. Let's talk a little bit about the forest program at 'em are and what does it mean to the organization that how does it benefit? The community. Pharmacists are really important program that I help run. It's an amazing way to be able to keep loving owners and their cats together and I really over the years doing this work. I think everybody kind of goes in their field. Whatever it is with certain ideas in certain thoughts and I know I certainly did with feeling the welfare and over the years of really changed my mind and change the way I understand the human animal bond in the way people love their pets and the way their pets are just so much happier with them than going into a shelter or changing their whole life and so the forest program. It's this opportunity for our organization to help keep animals in their home. The point of the program is to help animals in owners when a cat has a disease or injury that would otherwise force and owner to give up the cat get care we can come in and help offer financial assistance so that the cat can stay with their owner and doing the shelter work for several years for so many years. You see the stress and the heartbreak that goes along with surrendering a pet on both sides for the people and for the animal so being able to prevent that he and keep people in their animals together is really really important in today's climate where we see a lot of people not being able to afford their own health care You think about okay. Then how can they possibly afford the health care for their animals? And so really. There is some assistance for people but the assistance for pets is. It's obviously getting better. But it's not guaranteed and it's not there so the farmers program fills a big void in it allows people and animals to stay together. I really feel strongly about it. I really think really positive thing and I always said I think it sort of the trajectory of the future of animal welfare is keeping people and animals together whenever possible. That's great she just sort of thinking about the two topics. We've just covered here feline leukemia as well. As far as I'M GONNA put my executive director hat on and say what? Wait a minute you know. These cats are GONNA cost US money as far as program is going to cost US money. Are these really expensive programs to run so for the feeling the keyboard and care for life program it is an expense but it is an astronomical because like we were talking about before a lot of the time the feline leukemia. Cats are pretty healthy until sort of the feline. Leukemia goes into that terminal stage. So you know. It's really dot a super huge undertaking. The forest is definitely a bigger undertaking. Because these are cases where cats might need dentals that are well into the thousands or they may have been hit by a car in need major orthopedic surgery but until I think as society in general we can come up with a better solution to these huge astronomical. Medical costs when animals are sick or injured. These animals lives matter. They matter to owners and they matter general to our organization so as much as I really think that morale for us is wonderful and major player in in a welfare as the big picture I think one of our major strengths is acknowledging the individual animal the individual cat or kitten and the individual person as well well said well said the other reality. Is that many of those fires? Cats are going to need the assistance anyway if they were being surrendered to the organization. Absolutely we'd be paying for that F. H. O. R. that amputation. Either way so it kind of washes in the end before I go on to. Actually talk about adoptions as shelter director that should be what you spend a lot of your time involved with etc this will be my own version of I Dunno Feline Disease Jeopardy. I'll give you one more one more topic to touch upon and you get to choose so there's F. I. P. Ringworm or Fiv. You can choose one of those topics if you have anything you want to share with our listeners. Do I just choose one of those topics. I could talk all day about all three of those topics. Let's see which one do. I feel strongly about well. I feel with the FIV. So I think I'm going to pick FIV because for a very long time. Mri FOR US has been on the forefront of taking these animals in sheltering them in finding them homes when for a long time especially early on in my career we had so many shelters asking us to take them as transfers. What is special about? Mr Processes that from the very beginning we've kind of said okay. Let's be open minded. Let's think out of the box and so with Fiv we had our FIV positive cats running loose with our regular cats and we adopted them out as regular cats and we talk to people about the FAA. Be Sort of the whole you know. They can be a little bit more prone to the dental disease and their immuno-compromised so having that conversation with adopters but knowing Fiv cats that have lived to twenty. We could send the cats into their homes with the best intentions knowing that. There's a very good chance they were going to be fine and live a long life. What I think is really incredible is that we are not getting those requests for Fiv transfers on any level that we were getting before. And I think again it's a testament to the fact that people see. Fiv cats out with the other cats they see. Fiv cats living long healthy lives. And I think that has changed the hearts and minds of many people many shelters many veterinarians. I think that's really power fall. And so of course we still get. Fiv POSITIVE KITTIES and they're still living out with all our other cats but you know I think it's a great example of sort of the way we have approached cats and kittens that are different and sort of found them outcomes that were really the same as normal cat and then seeing that was successful and worked out well and of course. There's I think there's a published study now about. Fiv Cats cohabitating with non FIV cats and no evidence of transmission. So I think that also helps a lot. You bring up a good point as a shelter director. You're dependent upon a lot of resources and support with regards to protocols cleaning various diseases. What are your resources that you turn to? We are really lucky to work with a couple of really incredible veterinarians who really strive to keep learning. They want to know the next thing. You know the next new research the next interesting thing that comes out and so for us. I think has been a huge resource because these veterans who work with are very very invested. Very very smart and love to learn new things. They're not stuck to some. You know sort of this is the way I learned it in vet school and this is the way it's always going to be. They're hungry for knowledge and they're eager to share that with us and help our cats in that way the UC Davis Corbett School of Veterinary Medicine. They have incredible resources. That kind of how I got kick started in sort of knowing what was going on around me. Were those resources from there but yeah for the most part just kind of on top of the new research coming out you and I share a lot of new findings and research together. But what really is key is her. Veterenarians are super enthusiastic about learning new things. That helps a lot. Let's talk a little. Bit About Adoptions your adoption team you have increased the adoptions quite substantially. I think over the last several years at Mar for us. Would you like to share with us? Any of the sort of special campaigns that you do over the course of the year we sort of chug along as normal but like everywhere else. We get really busy in the spring and in the summer we have had kind of pop up adoption events here there and we have found that fee waived is really the way to go anything sort of less than that is not very effective during the spring and summer months we sort of do those on an ad needed basis if the shelter population just gets higher than we're able to have capacity for but we do have one adoption event scheduled every year. We didn't call you black Friday. We tried it on Saturday this year. But it's the weekend following Thanksgiving and this past adoption event. We sent home thirty three percent of our population which is really good. We really have. Successful adoptions if the funny thing about it was the day before the adoption event we actually did. More adoptions of the day of the event I'm not sure what that was about. But it was just really awesome to see. We got homes for couples special kitties to during that time and that sort of is a big draw for us to do those events. It's an awesome opportunity to find homes for kitties that sort of need a little bit more supporter understanding if folks are interested in finding out more about the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society or if they had any follow up questions. How would they do that? Who We have a really nice website which is M. R. F. R. S. Dot Org the acronym for Our Name and that website is. It's like a treasure trove of resources and information and then we have sort of a general email address it's info at M. R. F. R. S. Dot Org and our shelter staff checks that and that sort of way to get in touch with US and We can kind of funnel increase wherever they need to go. That's great. Is there anything else you'd like to share with our listeners? Today you know. I think the biggest thing is that I really truly believe that the future of sort of animal welfare feeling welfare is trying to keep people and animals together while recognizing that. I think there's always going to be smaller place hopefully for sheltering but one that exists in animals always need a safe place to go. We definitely operate in our shelter whenever we can try to keep cats and people together we do. That's a huge part of our intake program. That's a huge part of what our option coordinator does but at the same time we recognize that there has to be a safe place for animals to go when people just can't keep them so our mindset has definitely changed over the years and I think it's what makes us a lot stronger. I think our staff is really all on board with trying to do the best thing for the animal. Whatever that might be so I really just think that's the direction that animal welfare is heading in general and I think that's the direction our organization is is kind of heading towards to and I know for today's show. We were really focusing in on the feline leukemia and Fars Programs. But when you say you know whatever that cat may need. Mr For us has a cat mobile program as well as also a spay neuter program once a month mash style teen arc clinic that is free. Feral cats so say neuter is also a huge topic within the organization. Absolutely I think we will be exploring. Sorta ways to be proactive and spay. Neuter is the most proactive thing. You can do and also helping owners day on top of medical staff for their cats. So what I mean by that is getting regular exams and having access to that medical care so that one thousand dollar dental doesn't have to wait and be that substantial of a process it can be that people are getting their animals seen sooner and so it's less so you know preventive medicine is really important and I think that's another direction that spay neuter our organization. Everything is going towards bread. I WanNa thank you so much for agreeing to be a guest on my show. Thank you for listening to community cats. Podcast really appreciate it. If you would go to I tunes leave a review of the show. 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