Safe spaces for animals in need

Kingston Animal Rescue finds foster homes for small animals that shelters can't accommodate

Holly and Dixie are two rabbits that the Kingston Animal Rescue took in after over 200 rabbits were removed from a residence in Ontario.
Holly and Dixie are two rabbits that the Kingston Animal Rescue took in after over 200 rabbits were removed from a residence in Ontario.
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Supplied

It’s not uncommon to have a stray cat intercept your path when walking around the student ghetto.

“Cat overpopulation is a real crisis,” said Alison Migneault, director of Kingston Animal Rescue (KAR). “There are so many stray cats and so much breeding especially in our community.”

According to Migneault, a female cat could have up to three litters a year, meaning a single cat and her offspring could produce up to 400,000 cats combined.

KAR is a volunteer-run, no-kill animal shelter.

“Lots of organizations have to euthanize animals due to space and numbers, but an animal we take in is safe from risk of euthanasia,” Migneault said. “Rescuing is literally saving a life.”

Currently KAR has three Queen’s students fostering animals.

Migneault said students offer good foster homes before animals are adopted permanently, adding that numbers of interested students peak in September.

Fostering an animal is usually a six to eight-month commitment, meaning the eight-month school year isn’t a conflict.

Taking in a pet isn’t the financial burden some students would expect.

“If there were economic concerns we would supplement,” Migneault said. These costs could include vaccinations and general supplies. For rabbits, this includes the cost of hay, which is about $15 per month.

Student housing is checked to ensure the space makes an appropriate home for the foster pet.

Following the minimum six-month commitment, foster families have the option of adoption.

“They give them love and affection and get to know their likes, dislikes and personalities,” Migneault said.

Migneault said KAR hasn’t enountered any poor foster families. The organization was founded in 2010 and is currently responsible for 47 animals.

“We have a rigorous application system and people can easily identify what animals they want to foster,” Migneault said.

“We are 100 per cent volunteer so literally all of our money goes to animals.” Migneault was clear in her distinction between the aims of a pet store versus a rescue organization.

“By going to a pet store, you are supporting an industry that is making money off of animals,” she said. “They just want the animals to breed and reproduce without thinking of the consequences.”

KAR vaccinates and spays and neuters all animals before giving them to a foster home.

“It’s never an option that an animal we take in could go off and reproduce,” she said, adding that the adoption fee of $100 goes towards the cost to spay or neuter a pet as well as vaccinations.

Small animals are currently KAR’s priority.

“We have a special interest in … rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and rats, because they’re forgotten animals that don’t get the same care as a dog or cat,” she said. “At this point we’re open from anything to a dog down in terms of size.”

In emergency situations, rescue organizations in the area pool resources.

When the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) removed over 200 rabbits from an Ontario home last May, KAR took in 25.

“Lots of people think rabbits can just be released into the wild,” Migneault said. “Many rabbits have been domesticated for decades if not centuries and are ill-equipped to fend for themselves. Rabbits are prey animals.”

In the spring, animal shelters often receive abandoned and neglected rabbits that were impulsively purchased for Easter, Migneault said.

“Rabbits are really misunderstood animals. They have to be in a large, proper pen so they can exercise and a shelter can’t accommodate that need for space,” she said.

As pets, rabbits are fairly high-maintenance, requiring food pellets, vegetables, hay, fresh water and a clean litter box.

They live eight to 10 years and need three to four hours of exercise outside of a pen each day.

According to Migneault, giving an animal up to a shelter can put a strain on its space and resources.

“If you can’t help an animal, you should find someone else to foster it,” Migneault said.

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