It’s only been a week since the Washington Animal Rescue League welcomed eight dogs and five cats from a temporary emergency shelter set up by the ASPCA in New York. The animals, made homeless by "Superstorm Sandy," which struck New York and New Jersey Oct. 29, were surrendered to the New York center by their owners.
The newly transplanted furry residents were given initial medical exams at the Washington-based shelter, which has a full-service and fully staffed on site medical veterinarian clinic. The shelter is designed toward the needs of the animals. Each cat gets its own little "kitty condo," an area inside were they can hide, and a bed. Volunteers let them out daily to play, roam and exercise.
“We work with the ASPCA a lot and they call us periodically, and call with situations like Superstorm Sandy, where they have rescued a large number of animals and field them out to partner shelters throughout the Eastern regions “ said Matt Williams, WARL communications representative. “We also take in animals from various rescue situations, such as natural disasters, puppy mills, hoarding situations, ASPCA or the Humane Society. We really rely on our volunteers; we have 400 volunteers here,” said Williams.
Williams said volunteers are working with the dogs and cats, using different skills they have acquired via training at the shelter. Some of the dogs show signs of being skiddish and need socialization training. The program involves reading to the dogs until they get used to hearing a human voice around them all the time.
“Our volunteers read to them sporadically to help them get familiar with humans," Williams said. "They’re great dogs; they just need some time to acclimate.”
The New York visitors are well cared for by staff and volunteers. Catherine Breiner, a graphic designer and business owner who has volunteered for three months at the shelter, said she finds comfort in working with the animals.
“I love it; I’m working from home right now and it gives me an opportunity to get out of the house, and to help the animals and play with dogs, which I love,” said Breiner, a Friendship Heights resident. When asked how she felt about attending to the special needs of the transplanted animals from New York, Breiner noted, “They’re in the right place to get it. We do lots of things to get the animals used to being around humans again and let them know that people can be nice, and that people are their friends.”
Terry Bridgewater, on her first day as a volunteer at the shelter, enjoyed the one-on-one interaction with “Bubbly,” as she read to him from a magazine.
“I’ve always grown up with animals, dogs in particular, and I feel like it’s more for my personal appeasement, said Bridgewater. “They fill your life with love and happiness. Unfortunately with my job and small apartment I can’t have a pet. But this is one thing that I can do to give back to the community, and personally fill my life with a little more joy.”
WARL volunteers undergo different levels of training in socialization reading, handling, exercising and walking the animals, clean-up, feeding and attending events for the shelter. Some volunteers even help with the adoptions.
Matt Williams, a WARL communications representative who started working at the facility last April, adopted a dog from the WARL shelter five years ago.
“The animals receive good care here, because of the veterinary clinic we have on site," Williams said.
To adopt any one of the Sandy cats or dogs can come to the WARL to apply in person or contact them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 202-726-2556.