If anyone out there still thinks the BCSPCA does a wonderful job
of humanely caring for animals in its shelters, I would encourage
you take a look at a recent link the Rafe Mair show provides to
illustrate that the opposite is actually true. You will see photos
of the stark contrast between Penny March’s Forgotten Felines cat
habitat and the prison-like setting of cat cages at two lower
mainland SPCA shelters.
Here’s an excerpt from Penny’s website: “Forgotten Felines is a
no-kill animal shelter in Richmond. Our policy is: We accept cats
from all areas of Greater Vancouver. All cats are taken to one of
our vets to be vet-checked, fixed, vaccinated, blood tested for
leukemia and aids, dewormed, deflead and tattooed.
All cats’ teeth are checked and senior cats receive a teeth
cleaning. We accept cats in any condition. We accept cats that have
any bad habits. We accept cats of any age.
The cats are adopted out of one of our five adoption sites. The
feral cats are tamed and adopted out. None of our cats are
euthanized. We welcome them to live with us until we find the
In case you get the wrong impression, the SPCA has its stalwart,
loud critics not because we have nothing better to do nor are we
hell-bent on making life miserable for its employees. We criticize
the SPCA because it accepts donations from an unwitting public that
it willingly misleads about providing humane animal care and seems
to care very little for the abandoned, neglected and abused animals
in its shelters.
If the SPCA cares about the humane treatment of animals, you have
to wonder why CEO Craig Daniell ordered a raid on Forgotten Felines
where the cats’ medical and social needs are taken care of. Daniell
found nothing wrong at FF, yet cats in the SPCA’s shelters are
adopted out with less than half the medical care (including s/n)
that FF provides. Did Daniell’s motive have ANYTHING to do with
concern for the welfare of the cats at Forgotten Felines?
It’s all well and good for the BCSPCA to quote Gandhi and
Margaret Mead in its newsletters, but anyone can be look magnanimous
when they want more money. The SPCA has to get off its soapbox,
change its work culture and stop protecting so many highly paid
union animal killers. And its time for the SPCA to stop telling the
public to advocate for improved animal welfare legislation when
they’re so seldom ever doing it. And it’s time to treat all animals
humanely all the time, not just when the TV cameras are around, and
it’s time to stop bullying people like Penny March when she is
actually doing the rescue and rehabilitation job that the public
wrongly believes the SPCA is doing.
Homeless cats find a haven
At Forgotten Felines no-kill shelter cats enjoy care and comfort
at a home where they can live out their days
Thursday, May 27, 2004
Penny March's Forgotten Felines has run for more than a decade
as a no-kill shelter. She takes cats to shopping malls for
'adoption days' and is always trying to think of new ways to raise
Felix most definitely is on the second of his nine lives. The
gray and white cat was taken to a vet with horrible injuries,
stemming from abuse or neglect. After having his eye removed and
extensive surgery, he was lucky enough to wind up at a no-kill cat
He's blind and partially deaf and needs help to find his food
bowl. He'll need care throughout his lifetime.
But Felix, barely out of kittenhood, is cute as a button and
loves people. If he'd been taken to the SPCA, he might have been
categorized as being in critical distress or unadoptable. But, at
a no-kill shelter, if no one adopts him, he can live his life in a
His example raises an issue society across North America
currently is grappling with -- how to deal with companion animal
overpopulation and the morality of killing unwanted pets.
University of B.C.'s Animal Welfare Program is hosting a lecture,
Understanding the No-Kill Controversy, Friday at Robson Square.
People generally love no-kill shelters. It makes them feel
good. They can dispose of unwanted animals with a clear
conscience, knowing they will not be killed or starve or freeze to
But operating a no-kill shelter presents enormous challenges,
challenges the B.C. SPCA is all too aware of.
The society advertised itself as no-kill in March 2002, only to
discover it wasn't possible to deal with all B.C.'s stray and
homeless animals without having the option of reducing numbers
when resources were exhausted. After shelters overflowed and SPCA
workers panicked, the policy was modified.
SPCA shelters take in some 31,000 animals each year with a view
to finding them homes. The organization avoids euthanasia to the
extent possible but cannot provide exact figures because records
aren't fully computerized.
Forgotten Felines has been operating for more than a decade as
a no-kill shelter and financial and space pressures are often
overwhelming. But operator Penny March refuses to run it any other
Its website (www.forgottenfelines.ca) pledges: "The shelter
will take any cat; abused, stray, sick, abandoned and feral cats."
It further pledges cats will never be euthanized "for any
reason other than if it is suffering incurable pain." In the past
year there have been no such instances.
March's shelter is but one of an unknown number of private
groups operating in the Lower Mainland, rescuing companion
Often crowded and less than immaculate, these shelters tend to
be criticized by some as offering an endlessly unstimulating
existence and a worse fate for a cat than a quick and humane
Obviously, shelter operators who struggle mightily to maintain
their refuges beg to differ.
Registered as a charity, the Forgotten Felines' donations are
tax deductible. When not caring for her charges or cleaning the
shelter, March holds garage and rummage sales, pub nights and
pancake breakfasts, craft fairs and bake sales.
She occasionally acts as hot-dog vendor downtown. She takes
cats in cages to shopping malls for "adoption days" and is
constantly trying to dream up new ways of raising cash.
She's hoping someone will donate land so she can set up a more
extensive and permanent shelter operation.
The $135 donation fee she charges for an adoption goes toward
blood tests, spaying and neutering, vaccinations and a
complimentary vet visit for the new owner. Last year she ran a
deficit of $11,000.
She contributes to the shelter personally from revenue earned
by assisting her landscape designer husband.
The shelter, located in Richmond, is home to more than 150 cats
that live communally rather than in cages. Nooks and crannies
around and inside pieces of old furniture allow for hiding places.
Not all the cats are debilitated.
Many fluffy, adoptable cats find their way to this safe haven,
even so-called designer cats such as Maine Coons, Siamese and
Persians. But these cats would have a good chance of being adopted
at any SPCA shelter.
Forgotten Felines' real value is in its accommodation of the
unadoptables like Felix.
For such animals, the shelter operates the same way a chronic
care home or palliative ward designed for humans would operate.
Some cats have been at the shelter for as long as seven years.
They may have been dumped by owners, brought in by friends of a
deceased caregiver or transferred to March's care by local
veterinarians who have clients requesting their healthy pets be
Another category of cat generally deemed unadoptable is the
feral. These are wild cats that have not had contact with humans.
March has taken in many ferals that have been trapped by
volunteers. She has them fixed to curtail the pervasive problem of
over breeding and integrates them into the shelter. Over time,
many become familiar with people and get adopted.
A special room accommodates cats afflicted with feline leukemia
and HIV. And believe it or not, some have found homes. Like Mushie
and Melanie, two HIV cats adopted by a man who felt great sympathy
Terminally ill cats that don't get adopted will remain in their
compact quarters filled with cat beds, toys and soft blankets.
In another part of the shelter, cats with behaviour problems or
felines not meticulous about using the litter box are housed.
Finnigan, a lovable black prankster, is a hellion, splashing in
the communal water bowl as though it were a wading pool and
jumping on the shoulders of unsuspecting humans.
Finnigan has thrived at the shelter as has Combat, a huge,
black, formerly feral Maine Coon who acts as a sort of godfather
to all the other cats, and more often than not is curled up in an
oversized basket, purring.
Each cat has a story to tell. One was left in an elevator,
another in an apartment cupboard by a tenant who'd moved out. At
this time of year, birthing season, kittens are regularly left in
March remembers taking in a cat after getting a call from
someone living next to a crack house. She went over and the
people, blissfully stoned, handed over the pet.
Another cat, Katrina, was surrendered by her drug-using owners.
Katrina had severe seizures for the first four months she was at
the shelter. March suspects she was exposed in some way to drugs.
Then there's Oscar, who receives as much special care as March
and volunteers can offer.
Oscar is a portly ginger who arrived at the shelter after his
caregiver gave birth and decided cats and babies don't mix. Oscar
was extremely close to his caregiver and when dropped off was mad
as hell, growling and pawing aggressively at anyone who
But then he did what so many other dumped cats before him have
done at the shelter. He became horribly depressed, stopped
interacting and, most problematic, stopped eating. He spends his
days immobile, under a piano bench and is fed forcibly by March.
Force feeding and esteem building are attempted in such cases
with volunteers spending special time with and giving lots of
cuddles to the morose cat.
But quite often a depressed cat won't get over its misery and
will starve itself to death. The outlook for Oscar is uncertain.
But if he dies, it will be the result of his owner's lack of
March gets as little detail as possible from cat owners who
dump their cats -- usually because of a new boyfriend, landlord
trouble, moving to another city.
She doesn't care any more why they abandon their animals; it
only makes her angry that they do. "It's heartbreaking. They're so
confused. They don't understand why they've gone from a loving
home to a shelter."
Maya, coloured by a series of big black-and-white patches, is a
case in point.
March doesn't know why Maya was dumped in an open field in an
industrial area where she had virtually no chance of getting food.
Maya was a friendly cat; there was no doubt she once was someone's
She was trapped last week, brought to the shelter and, down to
2 1/2 pounds, was cuddled, force fed and watched over by March.
She died within three days.