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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Hope for the Homeless Cat

Many people see the problem of feral animals as hopeless, and by extension see any attempts to aid strays as futile. Frequently, people see the options for dealing with feral animals are limited to either leaving them outside, or bringing them to a shelter where they may be killed. However, there are a number of area shelters that make a point of not killing the animals that they acquire. One such shelter is Second Chance, run by Sheera Kahn. In a recent e-mail interview, Kahn took time to discuss her work on behalf of animals.

Kahn grew up in Newton, and she describes that city as an area where people “took good care of their homes, lawns, children and pets,” She said she “rarely saw an abandoned animal.”

However, when she moved to Jamaica Plain after college she began feeding a stray cat and her two kittens. The following year, the mother had 4 kittens, and Kahn called the MSPCA.

The MSPCA offered to lend Kahn traps. Kahn could then bring the traps in and the MSPCA would kill the animals for her. “That was unacceptable,” said Kahn.

She then purchased a non-injurious trap and took the animals into her home. With those 5 cats began Kahn’s current mission. Over the last 3 decades, she has helped hundreds of animals, and now helps about 600 cats per year.

While she focuses on cats, she will help with other animals as needed. “I personally only take cats, and the occasional dog or rabbit that I can pass on to the appropriate rescuers, and I suppose I could find a place for a horse if I had to!”

In fact, one of Kahn’s most memorable cases involved a dog. While on a trip to Mexico with some friends, she found a puppy. After smuggling the animal into the U.S., Kahn brought her to a Burger King. After the puppy expelled 4 burgers worth of effluence in the back of a rented car, the decision was made that it was not well enough to travel back to Massachusetts from Arizona. After a few months, it was briefly reunited with Kahn and placed in a new home.

Kahn notes that in many cases, she becomes attached to the animals that she saves, but “that if I don’t move onward, I can’t help the next one I find starving or abandoned.”

Kahn works tirelessly in her efforts to save animals, between 14 and 35 hours a week. That time is in addition to her obligations to her family, and her work as a travel agent. Much of her wages go to support the shelter.

Funding is an issue for Kahn. “We manage on about 20K a year,” she said. “It really makes me wonder what I could do if I had the $40 MILLION a year the Angell/MSPCA has.” Kahn notes with some indignation that the MSPCA solicits people to will property to them, and people do so.

One point that seems to infuriate Kahn is that despite their tremendous budget, the MSPCA kills stray animals. She also says that although the MSPCA offers reduced cost or free sterilizations for low-income pet owners, it also requires the owners to fill out a very invasive form that asks for name, Supplemental Security Income, income and bank account information.

However, Kahn approves of their low-cost vaccination programs and their “sterilize and release” programs.

Kahn finds her work immensely rewarding, “it’s such a joy for me to be able to save their lives. I know 98% of the cats I help would be killed, and when I can turn them around to be beloved pets, it’s a great feeling.”

However, one thing that troubles her is that her services are needed as much as they are. Kahn sees the biggest problem facing animals to be people’s attitudes. “We live in a throw-away society where we are conditioned to get rid of what no longer interests/pleases us….The number of teenage kittens/puppies abandoned is epidemic. Everyone wants a cute little baby one, and few are capable of a twenty year commitment.”

In other cases, people find it too difficult/inconvenient to help feral animals. She notes that in a number of cases, she agreed to take in an animal, only to find the other person later decided to give animal to the Animal Rescue League or MSPCA because it was “more convenient,” despite Kahn’s warning that the animals would likely be killed.

As Kahn sees it, the most helpful thing for feral animals would be for people to be more willing to take action on their behalf.

Second Chance can be reached at [email protected].