Whenever I go to our family of animal care centers, I am not only reminded of our life-saving work occurring every day, but also of the value of our work preventing animals from getting into situations of distress in the first place.
Today I was in San Diego County at our affiliate, The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center, in the town of Ramona for the opening of a brand-new wildlife medical center. This medical facility will be able to upgrade care for black bears, coyotes, bobcats, hawks, owls, skunks, raccoons, and so many other species native to southern California. As our members and supporters toured the facility, I was struck by all of the individual cases of woe that resulted in the animals finding a temporary or permanent home with us.
Ali Crumpacker, the center’s director, told the story of Tonka, a beautiful 200-pound mountain lion who is one of our few permanent residents (most animals are rehabbed and released.). A woman in San Diego purchased Tonka from a big cat breeder in Ohio at just one or two weeks old. She shipped the cub to California and brought the 28-day-old kitten to a veterinarian, who rightly reported the situation to state authorities.
In the nine years since he came to us, according to Ali, Tonka has cost The Fund for Animals $250,000 in the aggregate for daily care, medical treatment, staff time, and facility construction. So the person who acquired this animal made an impulsive decision, despite the fact that people in California are not permitted to possess native wildlife species — including mountain lions — and unwittingly placed a 15-year responsibility on someone else. Doesn’t that scream out for policies to prevent this sort of thing for the benefit of animals and for nonprofit organizations and government agencies with finite resources?
More typically, animals enter our center due to injury from some kind of encounter with people. It generally takes a few hours to safely recover from these incidents. At other times, they stay for weeks and even months, as happens with orphaned bobcats who may require up to nine months of care before they’re able to be released. It may not be an easy task, but few things are more rewarding than successfully rehabbing an animal and releasing them, like this skunk after fully recuperating from an injury, and seeing them scamper off, healthy and ready for adventure.
Ali worked to get so much labor and so many items for our new medical center. Every day, we and our affiliates work to stretch your dollars. But spend we must to help animals with no other options. At the same time, everyone at The Fund For Animals Wildlife Center knows that our work to ban the trade in exotic animals, to stop the poisoning of wildlife with lead ammunition and the need to educate communities about wildlife in their communities is central to our enterprise of building a humane society.
Caring for animals in crisis and preventing cruelty and bad outcomes are the interrelated elements of successful work for animals. We are especially grateful to our supporters for allowing us to do this critical work.