- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Christmas has come and gone and now ‘tis the season for lots of unwanted holiday gift pets to find themselves dumped in the city’s animal shelters.

Now would be the great time to pick up a homeless kitty. However, animal rescue groups in the Washington area often make adopting a cat difficult for the average person.

Here is a short story on why. Not long ago, my aunt and uncle, both in their 80s, were looking for a declawed calico female between 3 and 5 years old. They visited a Petco store, where they saw a gray-and-white kitty they really liked. Her problem was the hefty price tag: $129.

“I wish I had gotten her,” my uncle said later.

Next, they visited a cat fair at a shopping center in Northern Virginia’s Barcroft area. Prices there were better: $50-$60. My relatives put their names down for one cat, whose family was moving to Japan. My uncle tried calling the contact number for a week, but no answer. Finally the agency monitoring the cat fair called to say the cat had been taken.

Then my aunt and uncle contacted another agency that has a huge list of cats living in foster homes. They got a lecture from a woman at the agency who told them they were too picky as to what sort of cat they wanted. My aunt explained they were willing to compromise, but the woman was unconvinced.

When another friend of mine called this same agency, her calls were never returned. Although there must be notices from this agency in vet clinics all over Northern Virginia, the people who work there don’t seem to work too hard at finding homes for these lonely animals.

What all these shelters and agencies have in common is a draconian application process. Would-be owners must first fill out long forms stating their fitness for a cat. Next comes a phone interview, then mandatory inspection of one’s home. Then comes a signed, legal contract. If the cat is not already spayed, the owner must promise to do so.

I understand there are monster pet owners out there who refuse to take their cats to a vet, or sell the cat to a research facility, use it to train dogs for fighting, or feed kittens to pet snakes. But should people have to endure Twenty Questions just to take on a homeless kitty?

One morning, my uncle, aunt and I visited two D.C. shelters. The one on New York Avenue N.E. had clean cages and the animal handlers were friendly, but problems arose once we returned to the front counter.

First, the clerk said there were no cat request forms on hand, even though this was a busy Saturday on a holiday weekend. It took her at least 10 minutes to make a duplicate on the copy machine. Then my uncle got chewed out for a minor error he made on the form.

Nevertheless, my uncle said they wanted Ginger, a pretty calico in one of the cages.

An employee eventually followed up on their application a week later, only to say that Remi was ready. My uncle said no, they wanted Ginger. The shelter never got back to them.

We had better luck at the privately run Washington Animal Rescue League (WARL) off Oglethorpe Street in Northwest. It was much cleaner, newer and the cats were allowed to roam about. The adoption price was $60.

My uncle and aunt took a liking to a frisky 1-year-old female calico named Popcorn. The WARL called the following Monday, but by this time my aunt and uncle had decided Popcorn was too lively for them. They were also not in the mood for inspectors to go through their homes to ensure they weren’t cat abusers.

“We thought all these places would be running after us, offering us a cat,” my uncle said. “They all say they are striving to give cats away. But months have passed, and we still don’t have one.”

Fortunately, my aunt and uncle happened upon King Street Cats, an Alexandria agency that allows people to adopt these furry pets on the spot. They walked off with Abby, a tranquil, declawed calico who obviously likes her new home.

Maybe a fewer barriers need to be placed in front of people who simply want to own a kitty. I probably would not get approval for my three cats under the strictures these applicants undergo.

Fortunately, Popcorn had been adopted, last I checked with the WARL Web site, but 17 others — including Taffie, Yum Yum and a furry angel called Goldie — all await a home.

Julia Duin is an assistant national editor of The Washington Times.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide