Empty Shelter Project Matches Pets with Parents

Sebastian is very playful and loves to play fetch with his catnip-filled mouse toys. He is independent, a bit of a goofball and would do well with other cats.

People who want to adopt a dog or cat have several options. Getting a pet from a reputable breeder is considered more humane than going to a pet store, since they often gets their animals from inhumane “puppy mills.” People also provide animals with a second lease on life when they adopt from a rescue or animal shelter. Now there is another option for pet adoption in Prince William.

The Empty Shelter Project is a small foster-based rescue run out of Northern Virginia which provides temporary and permanent homes for relinquished pets.

Rachel Gilbert is the founder of the organization, which is currently applying for nonprofit status. A young woman from Manassas, Gilbert is a second year college student and groomer at Old Bridge Grooming in Lake Ridge.

Gilbert incorporated the business nine months ago. Although she has a full schedule between work and school, as a life-long animal lover she felt compelled to help dogs and cats that were otherwise being euthanized in overcrowded animal shelters.

Mya is a mom who needs a good home for Mother's Day. Almost put down because of her pregnancy, she's been a good mother to her kitties, and a companion who loves affection.

“A lot of people think that only the bad animals get put to sleep, but that’s not true,” said Gilbert. “A lot of them are adoptable dogs. It is just that (shelters) don’t have the room for them.”

In fact, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of whom approximately 3 to 4 million are euthanized.

Gilbert sees this as a problem with a solution. The volunteers of Empty Shelter Project take in surrenders, domestic animals relinquished by people who can no longer care for them, and make sure they are placed in a good home. When they can, they also take animals directly from shelters.

“Our main goal is to be able to pull dogs from North Carolina shelters. They have high kill, poorly funded shelters. They still use carbon monoxide to euthanize the animals. It takes five to ten minutes for them all to die,” Gilbert said.

Animals are still being put down at local animal shelters too. Although Gilbert believes things have improved at Prince William Animal Shelter, there are always some dogs and cats that are not fortunate enough to be adopted.

But along with rescuing animals from peril, Gilbert knows she must be careful to whom she adopts out her pets, lest they be put back in the same position.

When people want to adopt an animal from Gilbert they have to fill out forms, and she performs a home inspection. Adoptive parents pay a small fee for adoption that covers the animal’s spay or neutering, micro-chip, rabies and distemper vaccinations and a health exam by a vet. Fees also help the Empty Shelter continue their services, including paying for pets of low-income families to be spayed or neutered. They also trap, spay or neuter, vaccinate and return feral cats to help lower their populations.

But Gilbert suggests the intending pet parents foster the animal first to get acquainted with their new addition. Fostering is also a key component of the rescue, and the number of volunteers directly affects the number of animals they can rescue from put-to-sleep lists at shelters.

Ember came to the rescue as a fiery and fiesty kitten, and within a day he was the most lovable and friendly kitten.

Ember came to the rescue as a fiery and feisty kitten, and within a day he was the most lovable and friendly kitten.

“We’re a foster based rescue. People volunteer to take animals in until they get adopted,” Gilbert said.

Those who love animals, but are not looking to adopt at the moment make ideal foster parents. There is little to no expense to volunteer as the Empty Shelter Project provides necessities, such as food, leashes and toys.

To make these efforts possible, the Empty Shelter Project counts on monetary donations as well as donations of food, toys, leashes, collars and beds. They are always in need of more kitty litter.

The Empty Shelter Project tends to specialize in dogs and cats, though occasionally they have other small domestic mammals. They do not accept any farm animals, and they will not allow their non-clawed cats to be clawed by their owners.

More information can be found at the Empty Shelter Project website theemptyshelterproject@espnova.com, or its Facebook site. The cats in the photographs are currently up for adoption.

Photos provided by Rachel Gilbert of the Empty Shelter Project.




© 2012, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Community Service

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