Some revolutions begin with a rebel force, others with cats.
Thirteen years ago, stray cats were everywhere in Newtown: in our backyards, in the streets, behind restaurants and delis, marking vehicle tires and car hoods in parking lots.
Why were there so many stray cats? What was being done to help them? How could we lend a hand?
Setting out to find answers to these questions led to founding The Animal Center in 2004 and defined our mission, our “quest”— a journey that has helped more than 2,500 amazing, homeless animals and which will come to a close at the end of this year.
Yes, a close. A place at which we couldn’t be more profoundly grateful to have arrived. Because it means our rescue services simply aren’t needed as they once were. And this is a reason to celebrate.
As they say: “When one door closes, another opens.” So it is with us.
Let us explain by starting at the beginning.
In 2004, services for helping homeless and unwanted cats in Newtown were nearly non-existent. Newtown’s Animal Control facility (“dog pound”) consisted of a small cinderblock office at the dump complete with roughly a dozen chain link kennels for impounding stray dogs. No cats allowed.
A handful of veterinarians and good Samaritans were helping cats in their spare time, but there was no real organized effort to assist cats and kittens in need.
So we started The Animal Center with the goal of significantly reducing feline homelessness in Newtown by providing rescue, adoption and spay/neuter assistance to residents with stray cats or kittens in their neighborhood.
Guess what: it worked.
In 13 years we have: saved thousands of lives (feline and canine), helped hundreds of special needs animals, provided emergency services and care to those in greatest need, offered hospice and long-term fostering, assisted legions of residents with spay/neutering of feral cats, fed thousands of cats through food drives, worked hand in hand with kids in the community at adoption events and through our foster program.
And we did this entirely through a volunteer, foster-based network operating on a shoe-string budget.
Meow over these stats: Back in 2004, 100% of the animals we helped came from Newtown. After 13 years of targeted spay/neuter and rescue efforts, even as our primary service area has remained Newtown, that percentage has fallen to less than 10% consecutively over the last six years. That means for every 100 cats/kittens helped, less than 10 come from Newtown.
We know you can appreciate the enormity of this achievement. But the truth is that we simply could not have accomplished so much without you. You have been the secret ingredient in our success. Your kindness, compassion and support has made each and every rescue we did possible—and that is a blessing for which we will always be grateful.
We’re not claiming that we’ve forever ended feline homelessness in Newtown. There will always be irresponsible people who leave behind companion animals when they move; mental illness that leads to animal hoarding; people who allow their companion animals to reproduce…
What we are saying is: mission accomplished. The Animal Center achieved its goal, and we accept all the joy and finality this milestone brings.
The rescue services provided by The Animal Center are simply not needed as they once were. To that end, we will be winding down our rescue program at year’s end.
What’s next for us? How will we honor our existing monetary donations? Our Board of Directors has decided to use The Animal Center’s remaining assets to fund two key areas. The first focuses on prevention: we plan to assist Newtown Animal Control with feline spay/neuter to prevent future unwanted litters from being born. We’ve built an incredible partnership with them over the years and their new facility has an amazing cat shelter. The second focus will be on community/humane education initiatives, like the “no-declawing” billboards you may have seen in Newtown this past summer.
In closing, we would like to stress this point: there is no reason for sadness. Thanks to friends like you, a huge accomplishment has been achieved. Countless lives have been saved, friendships made and bridges built. Every step we’ve taken to help animals and serve the community has been rooted in compassion, kindness and (we hope) wisdom. This is the imprint we leave.
Thank you for being part of our work of love.
With deepest gratitude,
Monica & Kim