Homeless Pets in Newfoundland: How Central Paws Helps Them

Milo_CollarOFF Milo_CollarON

October 16, 2014: All ready to go to his new home tomorrow. Big boy surgery on the 29th. Milo isn’t sure what the heck we put on him. Oh wait it comes off and turns into a toy. Gonna miss his badness.

October 30, 2014: Well it’s rare we have to take any animal back, but this guy had made the second one in a month. This through his fault. Once Milo started to feel better he decided he preferred to use the bathroom sink as a toilet. NOT GOOD. So we thought maybe he was still sick … Nope … Changed the litter … Nope .. Two litter boxes … Nope … He’s just got neutered … there was NO STRESS … No other cats or dogs … He had it great … So he’s coming back this morning. His foster care provider has 7 cats and is soon heading for vacation and doesn’t want to leave a problem in her house as he needs to be worked on…..

October 31, 2014: Milo is off to trick or treat at the Exploits Valley Animal Hospital. Thanks Lacey for the pick up! Let’s hope today we solve the mystery AND MAYBE SOMEONE WILL OFFER him a home irregardless of his issues.

Two years ago, I started following the misadventures of Milo, a cat who came to Central Paws as a kitten. Just skin and bones at the time of his surrender, followers of the volunteer group’s Facebook page saw Milo fill out in size to a healthy cat while at the same time apparently develop medical and/or behavioral issues. Yet he was proving so affectionate, curious, and playful that many like me were falling for him and wishing him a forever home. In the summer of 2015, while on a visit to my hometown of Grand Falls-Windsor in my home province of Newfoundland, I made it a priority to meet the founder of Central Paws and to check out the cat whose stories had demanded my attention.

Judy Hunter’s heart has always been in rescue. As a child, she used to bring home cats and kittens that she found wandering around the Lion’s Club. As an adult, Judy has spent countless hours volunteering with the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), whose average annual intake is about 1000 animals in a town of about 15,000 people. Her volunteer work with the SPCA made Judy aware of how many animals get dumped and/or relinquished. The experience also made her aware of useful animal services that an average small shelter can’t provide.

In 2003, with the idea of providing those services, Judy and several other volunteers came up with the idea of Central Paws, a group whose primary mandate is to prevent animal homelessness in the Central Newfoundland region. Since its conception, Central Paws has tried to accomplish many tasks:

  • Low-cost spay neuter
  • Rehoming of animals
  • Fostering for animals
  • Trap-neuter-release
  • Food bank for low-income families
  • Humane education

The organization started with about ten board members and up to twenty other volunteers. Meetings are held online because members are from different areas of Central Newfoundland. From the start, Central Paws has received the support of a veterinarian group. An individual from Springdale typically arranges fundraisers. Initially, volunteers used the latter to promote awareness, but has since added social media.

Central Paws has experienced various successes. For example, for the first five years, Central Paws was able to provide humane education with the assistance of summer student grants. Although limited space and volunteer numbers eventually meant this service had to be cut, Central Paws continues to remain “super busy” with its low-cost spay/neuter services and with its fostering and/or rehoming of animals. In 2011, Central Paws spayed/neutered 18 cats and 1 dog. Some of the cats belonged to owners on fixed income, many were abandoned in barns, while others were feral that are now maintained in colonies supervised by volunteers. From 2003 to 2015, the group has helped approximately 700 animals by finding them new homes.

Despite its successes, Central Paws has also experienced setbacks and challenges that have caused it to change its offerings. For example, while Central Paws does still provide rehoming services, achieving this goal relies on the availability of fosters, and far too often the demand for rescue has outweighed the availability of homes. For that reason, Central Paws now tries to restrict rescue to those animals that wouldn’t survive in a shelter, such as feral cats or ones needing around-the-clock care such as kittens. Speaking of feral cats, Central Paws hasn’t done any actual releases (as part of traditional Trap-Neuter-Release) for years. Instead the preference is now to allow feral cats to recover from being spayed/neutered and then help them rehabilitate until they’re considered adoptable. Finally, although the food bank has gone by the wayside along with humane education, Central Paws does still provide food to individuals who are feeding strays.Milo_Milk

November 12, 2014: Milo thinks he’s going to sneak off to Ontario in the milk bag organizer. Sorry Milo, you can’t go!

November 17, 2014: Milo is finally well enough to find his forever home. He has been fl/fiv negative, vaccinated against the cat flu, dewormed and neutered. Milo is on special food from the vet and would need a home that would be vigilant in keeping him from stealing food and garbage, which I’m pretty sure started his problem. You basically have to child-proof your home. He is cuddly and sweet but I swear he has the character of a Labrador retriever puppy…..

December 13, 2014: Milo is still looking for a special home. He’s @ 7 months old … Milo has been classified as “special needs” as he has irritable bowel and will be required to be on a special diet. Milo is a thief and likes to steal people food so that requires constant supervision. Milo is sweet, loves to cuddle and suck on your fingers. He enjoys playing with other cats and would do best in a home with someone to play with….

When I visited her in the summer of 2015, besides running administrative duties for Central Paws out of her home, Judy was also housing several of the organization’s cats who had yet to find homes. One of those cats was the ever lovable rascal, Milo, whose escapades I’d followed online. Soon after I sat down to chat with Judy, Milo sauntered up to me and checked out my shoelaces and my laptop. Then he flopped next to me on my tote bag for a nap. Upon a subsequent visit, he also enjoyed time with my husband, who waved feather danglers in front of him and a buddy in the downstairs area of Judy’s house.

That buddy was PJ, a cat that came to Central Paws as a feral. He made an early appearance on Facebook in January of last year with this post from Judy: “PJ actually reached out for a sniff this morning.” And later in the same month, Judy posted a video of a few captured of Central Paws’ feral cats, and wrote, “Making progress with the feral cats. The two younger ones at least. Momma loves her new bed … PJ is blinking and the rascal plays with his water.” Months later, shortly before my June 15 visit, Judy posted this update about PJ on Facebook: “Oh my, I’m so happy! PJ came over and sat right next to me, put his paws on my legs. Well, he was after the fish game on the phone, but who cares? I feel like I won the lottery!”

During my visit, I also had the special privilege of being introduced to a feral cat known simply at Momma, whose estimated age is three to five years old. At this time I’d been working with community cats for about a year and so I appreciated the chance to see Judy’s setup for a rescued feral cat. Judy had a secluded downstairs room that included a cage where a cat could recover from spay/neuter in isolation. At the time of my visit, Momma was hiding in a covered cat bed, but she had progressed to the point of venturing outside her cage in Judy’s presence.

Judy gave me treats for feeding Momma but, although I could get close enough to place them in front of Momma without frightening her, Momma wouldn’t at the time eat them in my presence. This didn’t surprise me, as a feral eating in front of a person would show trust. Momma had lived outside for a number of years, away from humans, having litter after litter of kittens. Habilitating a feral cat can take a long time, but Central Paws has showed success with this venture, in that Momma and other feral cats rescued by Central Paws have been successfully placed into pet foster care.

Since my visit, I’ve stayed in contact with Judy. I felt great relief that past December to receive this message: “Don’t be too sorry about Milo and PJ, I can’t imagine adopting them out now.  Milo was transferred to me a long time ago. I just never said anything … Ha-ha. Milo doesn’t get into as much trouble these days or we’re just making a better effort at keeping him out of trouble.  His latest thing is my coffee reservoir; if I don’t remember to put it away he gets the top off and plays with the water. PJ has come a long way too. He gets up with us on the couch and, if being approached right, we can pet him for a long time. We can pick him up for short periods of time to move him from one bowl to another or to take him off the counter. He’s quick to run away at the least uncomfortable situation, but does like being combed and petted.” As for Momma, she now gets along with dogs, cats, and children over 10, and is considered tame. This past year, she also got adopted by her pet parent foster.

When I left Grand Falls-Windsor in 1998, the only solution I knew about for homeless animals were humane shelters. Despite how much I loved animals, I tried very much to avoid spending time in such shelters because I couldn’t emotionally handle the fact that many animals would not make it out alive. Since 1998, I’ve been educated about so many other solutions, which is a reason I was excited to learn about Central Paws.

In addition, I’m proud to hear that, according to Judy, even the local SPCA has grown with the times. It’s introduced spay/neuter, microchipping, and even canine obedience. I’m also happy to know that rescue groups such as Central Paws are becoming more popular around my home province. While the pet overpopulation crisis isn’t as drastic in Canada as in the United States, according to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, there are still close to 200,000 animals entering shelters annually and about 6 times as many cats are euthanized as are dogs. In fact, CFHS considers Canada to have a homeless cat crisis and called 2011 Year of the Cat to draw attention to the plight of our feline friends.

If you’re interested in offering support to Central Paws, donations are always welcome. Volunteers are also needed. A cursory glance back through the pages of the Central Paws Facebook page or WordPress blog will give an insight into how much the volunteers at Central Paws are trying to do for homeless pets. On any given day, there will be notices about lost pets, pets who need rescue, multiple attempts to trap, trips to the vet, requests for transportation to and from rescues across the island, announcements of fund raisers, and a lament about piled-up paperwork. And of course fosters, fosters, and more fosters are always most welcome.

You can find Central Paws online at:

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