Tucson Giving: Helping animals in need

2013-12-22T00:00:00Z Tucson Giving: Helping animals in needBy Loni Nannini Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Trees are trimmed and stockings are hung, but there’s still time to wrap up holiday cheer for winged and four-legged friends — both domestic and wild — before Christmas.

For the dogs and cats at Hope Animal Shelter, the best gift will come in the form of monetary donations of any size, either one-time or ongoing.

“Unlike many rescue groups that utilize foster homes, we have overhead. Our rent and utilities are $3,000 a month, so we have that need month-by-month. If we could get monthly donations — even small donations of $5 each month — to cover that cost, it would really help,” said Susan Scherl, founder of the nonprofit, no-kill haven that currently houses 100 abandoned cats and dogs at 2011 E. 12th St.

The shelter, which is set up as a sanctuary with community cat and dog housing and a large yard in which dogs can run, houses many elderly animals as well as those that are sick or injured and need veterinary care.

The care for these special-needs animals is often extremely expensive: Major veterinary care can routinely average $3,000-plus a month, and Scherl is dedicated to promoting awareness about their plight.

“These are the animals that are left behind, and I try to be the voice for them. They are all precious, and it is a passion for me,” Scherl said.

She is optimistic that promoting awareness about Hope will also result in more community support of the shelter’s mission of fostering animal respect and ending euthanasia and bring in more volunteers.

“We need more volunteers to take pets to off-site adoptions. We haven’t been able to do those this year and it has really hurt us. This time of year people are very generous and we are very appreciative, but our needs continue year-round,” she said.

Undomesticated creatures native to the Sonoran Desert can also require assistance, and the Tucson Wildlife Center offers unique opportunities to come to their aid.

Since 2000, the nonprofit has been dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of injured and orphaned wild animals throughout Southern Arizona.

It is nearing completion of the animal treatment portion of the Sam Goldman Wildlife Hospital, a $1.5 million facility that will include a 24-hour emergency room, surgery center, triage and intensive-care units for both birds and mammals, rehabilitation space, administration offices and live-in veterinarian quarters at 13275 E. Speedway.

Every year the center helps almost 1,000 large birds and mammals, including eagles, hawks, owls, bobcats, coyotes and javelina, and it is slated to become a teaching hospital for wildlife veterinarians, according to Director Dee Kidd.

“We will be one of very few hospitals in the country that train wildlife veterinarians. Many places in the country focus on raptors but not large mammals like we do,” she said. “Very few other rehabbers take large animals: They are dangerous and cost more to feed and medicate and house, and that is our specialty area.”

Currently, the center houses about 50 animals, including a coyote with no hair that is recovering from mange and a pipistrelle bat bat that is being hand fed after it was found near starvation almost two weeks ago. It was trapped in a Gatorade bottle with a tortilla at a construction site.

“Of course, these bats eat only insects, not tortillas. That is why education and outreach is so important, and that is part of our mission,” Kidd said.

Recent releases include a ring-tailed cat that was caught in a trap and almost died before being rescued. During recovery, its pregnancy was discovered, and the mother was released with her two babies.

Kidd said that the ring-tail is typical of animals rescued by the center.

“Lots of people say to let nature take its course, but with the increasing community size, there is more and more encroachment on the animals’ natural habitat, and humans are responsible for 85 percent of intakes. Most of them have been hit by cars, injured during trappings or poisoned, or result from hunting mishaps or window hits,” Kidd said.

“We feel that if humans are responsible for the damage, we should be helping the animals, too.”

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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