The “truth” according to whom….disgruntled ex-employees that haven’t set foot on the refuge in 3 years, volunteers that quit because the shift work was too hard and they really just wanted play time with the cats, or a so called investigative reporter that only tells one side and thinks the New York Times and Today Show professionals don’t have a clue what they are doing? And for the record, your comment on “Siglinda’s request “for a volunteer to pretend to be adopting a cat” was pretty naive. Anyone who has ever worked with a television crew knows that they have a limited time to shoot and aren’t always lucky enough to be there exactly when something is taking place, so they reenact it. That doesn’t mean the event didn’t take place. I have volunteered at the Goathouse Refuge on a weekly basis for the last 5 years, yet you didn’t contact me or any of the many other volunteers that consistently give our time and energy to the Goathouse week after week. So, let me tell you our truth.
First, I do not know any volunteer that has ever been asked to sign a piece of paper agreeing “not to talk bad about the Goathouse to anyone”. We aren’t paid to be there so we don’t have any contracts.
Second, I find it quite amusing that your article is complaining about the overcrowding amount of cats when the very picture that you took on your short visit to the refuge shows how many cats? Let me count them….oh , just one! Did you tell the other 200 cats to stay out of the picture while you were shooting so they wouldn’t crowd his shot? A picture is worth a thousand words and that one really proved your point, didn’t it? You said how crowded the main building area was when you were there at feeding time. Duh, it was dinner time. Food is not left out all day for the cats to constantly munch on. They are on a schedule for breakfast and supper and so of course they all come in to eat. The cats not only have the building itself but also spend a lot of time enjoying the fenced acre and a half where they can roam, play, run and lounge as they choose. The outside area did not exist in the early days of the Refuge so of course there were fewer cats. The interior has also been remodeled several times over the last two years to have additional separate cat rooms. An additional out building was added so that there is a separate intake area for new arrivals but you forgot to mention that also. If you would have listened closely to Jill’s report on the Today Show, you would have heard them say that although most cats do not have to stay in cages, there are some cats in them for specific reasons, otherwise they are cage-free (unlike shelters where they are stuck in there all day, every day until they are either adopted, rescued, or killed)
You are also incorrect about Siglinda’s personal cats mixing with the Refuge cats. Her cats do not go inside the cat building or their fenced acre and a half. Experienced volunteers and Vet-techs that are there on a regular basis not only know which cats are adoptable and which are feral, they also know their personalities. Most of the issues you write about and emails quoted are 2-3 years old. Part of the Vet-techs job has always been to update the records on micro chipping, shots, etc. If records were lacking or things weren’t being handled, maybe that’s part of why the former vet-techs were fired. I know that for the past year, at least, when adopters come to pick up their cat, they are given the folder with the cats’ records that day. They don’t have to wait a week to get them.
We have helped find good homes for hundreds of cats over the years and many of us have pet sat, visited, or followed up with lots of those families. Had you bothered to contact any of them, they would tell you that unlike the two people you quoted, these families have had very healthy, happy pets. Sure, in an ideal world the Goathouse would only have fifty cats there but we don’t live in an ideal world. That would require that all people who have pets would actually be responsible pet owners and get their animals spayed and neutered and that they would keep their word to be the pets’ family for life. You want to know why a few of the cats are stressed and unhappy, because they were part of a family that they loved for years but were then given away. Now they are in a new place that they don’t know, with people and cats they have never met, and missing their family. Wouldn’t you be depressed and stress too? If you would have been there all day to observe the cats, you also wouldn’t have seen any fights going on. They all get along.
If Siglinda really wanted to hoard cats, she could easily have many more there. Every day she receives numerous calls and emails with sad and sometimes unbearable stories from families, kill shelters, other organizations, and vet offices asking if she can take just one more cat, not to mention the people that just show up with cats to drop off. She realizes that the organization mainly runs off of donations and volunteers and that we do have a limit as to what we can handle. So she does say no. On two occasions in the past year when I have personally found adoptable, stray cats, Siglinda has even told me (a 5 year volunteer) that there wasn’t room for me to bring a cat to the Refuge. But if there is a dire situation that comes up and she feels that she needs to take that cat in, we understand and would probably do the same thing.
Is she perfect? No. None of us are. She has had cats for sixty years and is very knowledgeable, passionate, and strong-willed about them, which can lead to disagreements sometimes. So you talk it out, voice your opinion, work through the situation, and move on. If your personalities don’t click or you don’t like the work environment, go somewhere else. Don’t keep harping on it years later. Get over it!
Siglinda does everything she can for those cats, including sending many of them to the vet school that need tests or surgery, knowing that it will be thousands of dollars. It is terrible when something gets missed and we don’t want any cat to fall through the cracks. Unfortunately, sometimes things happen and maybe something does get overlooked. I have a great veterinarian but even she has missed a diagnosis before. That’s why it is so important for the volunteers to help out and take time to pay attention to the cats when they are there and let the vet tech know if they see something that needs attention. Quite a few changes have been made over the last couple of years to improve policies and procedures and will continue to be updated, as with any company. Do you think no other organizations ever have cats to get sick or have more to do than they have money or help for? Every rescue group has challenges from time to time.
For all of you that are casting stones, what did you do to make a difference in the life of an animal today? Did you volunteer your time to help out, donate any money or supplies, drive a batch of cats to get spayed or neutered, rescue one just in time from being killed, foster one, adopt one, sign a petition to do away with the gas chambers or puppy mills in NC, or start your own no-kill refuge with your own money? I didn’t think so. Frankly, I find the timing of this “investigation” pretty suspect. Instead of the terrific press the Refuge has gotten recently and all the good that it can do to help the cats, it seems that a group of bitter people with a grudge (what other person would supposedly keep an email for years from a place where they no longer work) and a reporter who just wants a story would rather tear it down. Would you prefer those cats be euthanized like the hundreds of others that are done in the triangle every week?
North Carolina is the 4th lowest ranking state in the nation when it comes to animal welfare policies. If you all really care about their wellbeing, why don’t you do something to help close the gas chambers, change the kill shelter policies, stop the hundreds of puppy mills, or educate people on spaying and neutering? Why don’t you all go in together to start your own non-profit and run it the way you want to? Because of the bigger issue of overpopulation, there are thousands of cats and dogs that need fostering or adopting in this state. I’m quite sure the 200 cats at the Goathouse Refuge and all the ones that have passed through over the years are thankful they were rescued and given a second and third chance by Siglinda. Take Patches and Oscar for example. They will live out their lives at the Refuge being cared for and well loved. Do they look like they are suffering and being hoarded? Give me a break!
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Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
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