Almost 23 years after it began as a way to reduce the large number of feral cats in town, Hull Seaside Animal Rescue continues its mission to find “forever homes” for hundreds of cats each year.
“It’s gradually gone up every year,” Shelter Operations Manager Ellen Whitney said of the number of cats rescued. “Last year it was 198 cats total, which is really good for such a small shelter.”
The non-profit organization is a no-kill shelter, meaning that cats are cared for until they can be adopted. The organization is run by a volunteer board of directors and has a network of about 70 active volunteers who care for the animals over several shifts a day. They feed the cats, clean their rooms and litter boxes, administer medicine if necessary, and give the cats time for socialization.
The group is always looking for volunteers, and the need for donations of time and money is constant, Whitney said. The shelter conducts fundraisers throughout the year, including the popular “Kittendales” calendar of men posing with kittens, an annual yard sale, and the collection of redeemable bottles and cans. People can drop off cans and bottles at the bins outside the building at 487 Nantasket Ave., and volunteers will pick them up at restaurants and bars in Hull, she said.
“The fundraisers help offset our costs,” Whitney said. “Our biggest fundraiser is the bottles and cans. We do that 365 days a year, and that is a huge, huge fundraiser for us.”
When HSAR started in December 1999, volunteers participated in a trap/neuter/release (TNR) program to try to deal with homeless cats in Hull. Now the cats that come to the shelter are from Hull, the South Shore, and Boston.
“There are surrenders, and there are a lot of phone calls for abandoned cats,” she said. “But most of our cats come from the city of Boston. There’s a lot of people giving them up, and as a result there are a lot of abandoned cats there.”
Cats that are taken in by HSAR are checked by a veterinarian, spayed or neutered, and cared for until they are adopted. The cats also get updated vaccinations and any behavioral or medical issues are disclosed to potential adopters. An adoption coordinator works with local families who reach out to HSAR through its website, through PetFinder.com, or come to the open house times on Saturday afternoons and Monday evenings. HSAR also promotes an available cat each week in the “Pick of the Litter” column in The Hull Times.
The use of PetFinder attracts people from all over Massachusetts and New Hampshire and Rhode Island to adopt the cats, she said. Whenever possible, HSAR prefers to have kittens adopted in pairs.
Whitney, who has managed the shelter for two-and-a-half years, previously worked as a municipal bond trader. She left the business world for full-time parenting after her children were born and always has had a passion for animals. She said she enjoys her job because the cats who come to the shelter have a happy ending to their story once they are adopted.
“There’s nothing better than having a cat who’s really scared, and maybe been really neglected, and be able to watch that cat in such a short time become confident and friendly, and then loved by a family,” she said.
The COVID19 pandemic restrictions did not stop the work of caring for the cats, but they did affect the number of volunteers who were able to come to the shelter, and also had an impact on fundraising.
“Our biggest needs are volunteers and donations. They really are both important,” she said.
Whitney said that while volunteers to care for the cats are always welcome, HSAR could use “volunteers with different strengths” to keep the organization strong, such as those with specific skills like managing the newsletter, or time availability to sell merchandise at different community events.
Fundraisers planned for later this year include an event with Vitamin Sea Brewery, where a dollar from every beer sold will benefit HSAR. The date has not yet been finalized, she said.
Another will be on October 13 at The Parrot, with Aldous Collins as the musical guest as well as food and raffles. The annual HSAR yard sale will be on Saturday, September 10.
HSAR also is, for the first time, sponsoring a GoFundMe campaign for three cats it has rescued from a hoarding situation – Ben, Jerry, and Luna – who have significant medical needs. There originally were five cats rescued, but two had to be put down, and the others have medical bills that are expected to total more than $5,000. Nearly half of the goal has already been raised since the effort began earlier this month.
With fundraisers in the works and active efforts to recruit more volunteers, HSAR is looking to continue its work serving the feline population of Hull and the South Shore.
“Our goals are to be a bigger presence in the community, to do more fundraising that involves the community, and to continue helping the cats as best we can,” she said.
For more information on Hull Seaside Animal Rescue, including how you can make a donation or volunteer your time, visit www.hsar.org.
Submitted By Adam Haraden