When your goal is to help as many stray cats as possible, any donation at all can make the difference between having the resources to save an animal and having to euthanize them.
And for Karen Duke — who runs the Lathrop-based Happy Pet Owners group that manages feeding stations throughout the community to service feral cats and provide a point where they can be captured, spayed and adopted out to good homes — finding out that Save Mart Supermarkets discontinued their S.H.A.R.E.S. program that donated money for non-profit groups, it was a tremendous hit.
According to Duke, the Northern California-based supermarket chain isn’t abandoning their popular program, but has since partnered with popular non-profit distribution network eScrip to help distribute up to 3 percent of shoppers purchases to nonprofits of their choice. While Happy Pet Owners is registered for eScrip and those wishing to support through their grocery shopping can still do so, it will require going to the company’s website, logging in and making the selection manually rather than using the existing card.
“It’s an awesome program and it has been wonderful for the things that we’re trying to do,” Duke said of Save Mart’s program. “Every quarter we were able to do medical procedures that we couldn’t do before, and I’m afraid now that if people don’t realize what they need to do in order to select us through the website we’re going to have to euthanize a lot of animals.
“We spend $20,000 a year on just the vet alone and having a business that is able to donate back to groups in the community has been a huge help for us. Out of my own pocket I spend $700-a-month on just food alone, and so when you factor in $65 each to fix a female cat it really starts to add up.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody more dedicated to his or her respective cause than Duke.
A few years ago, at the age of 70, Duke was badly injured when she fell from a tree branch while rescuing a cat that was stuck — falling nearly 40 feet to the ground below. Despite suffering a broken femur and a punctured lung, she recovered from her injuries and resumed her rescue operations as soon as she was physically able.
The fall may have slowed her a bit, but it didn’t stop her drive from doing something that’s spent nearly two decades of her life to – making sure that animals that are abandoned and left don’t lead to more animals that don’t have the ability to survive on their own.
Sometimes, however, it’s a never-ending job.
During one three-week period, Duke took in and had 137 cats fixed. According to her, unfortunately by the time that her colonies are cleaned up and tended to, there’s another one that pops up.
Not everybody likes her methods, but Duke said that if people would take responsibility and fix their animals then there wouldn’t be any need for her or her team of dedicated volunteers to.
“It seems like very time we get a colony cleaned up, somebody drops off a cat there that isn’t fixed and we end up having to start all over again – you can’t ever catch up,” she said. “The whole thing with the overpopulation of pets doesn’t have anything to do with the pets – it’s a people problem, and the animals are the ones that end up paying the price.”
Those that had previously supporter Happy Pet Owners through Save Mart’s S.H.A.R.E.S. program are urged to visit www.escrip.com, create an account, and make their selection from the list of available nonprofits that serve the local community.