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Nonprofits: Support lags for project that cares for cats

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

A little over a year ago, Sandra Burgin and Brenda Moran had big hopes for a nonprofit they had just started to manage feral cat populations.

They planned to get recognized as a 501(c)(3) organization so donations to the group would be tax exempt, and anticipated support for their mission increasing slowly but steadily. After all, their mission — keeping feral cat numbers down, feeding existing colonies to keep them off of roadways, and providing medical care for sick and injured animals — was worthwhile and benefitted the entire community.

“I really wanted this to explode,” said Burgin, who owns a Pawleys Island landscaping business.

But after more than 12 months, support for the group hasn’t materialized and Ferals in Need, still isn’t a registered nonprofit. Burgin and Moran can’t afford the $500 it costs to apply, they said.

They’re pouring all their limited resources into the group’s mission and without some help, they aren’t sure how much longer they can keep it up.

“We’ll have to disband. The [cats] we have, we’ll desperately try to continue to provide for, but we have no money,” Moran said. “We’re so desperate now.”

Burgin gets emotional at the mere thought having to turn away an animal in need. She’s always loved animals and helping ferals and domesticated cats that have been abandoned is a cause close to her heart.

“It’s going to be so sad,” she said. “There are so many right now that need to be fixed and people keep dropping them off. And now with spring coming—”

She has no idea how Ferals in Need will manage all the kittens sure to be brought with spring. She and Moran take them in, get them used to humans and try to adopt them out, but that’s something else they haven’t had much luck with in the last year.

Ferals in Need started as primarily a trap, neuter and release program, but has evolved to include rescue as Burgin and Moran also aid tame animals that clearly were once pets.

“People dump them all the time. They just throw ‘em out like it’s nothing. They’re moving or just had a baby, or they just decide they’re tired of taking care of it,” Burgin said. “I’ve seen people throw them out of car windows.”

The situation has worsened with the recession.

Abandoned animals, often former house cats, are defenseless in the wild and usually don’t know how to feed themselves.

Burgin has a declawed tom she rescued living at her house now and is trying to find a home for him. She and Moran both use their homes to foster animals that are adoptable.

“Two I have at my house I had to take in because they had to be x-rayed. They had been shot.”

One, a female, was lucky that nothing vital had been hit with the shot. But the male had his trachea pierced by a pellet and blood got into his lungs, nearly killing him.

Bone was showing on the face of one cat Burgin took in after it was shot. She also has a litter of kittens she was called to pick up from behind a grocery store. Someone had put them in a box and covered them in bleach. She’ll never forget the agonized sound of their cries.

She has more stories than she can count of cruelties inflicted on cats she’s helped or attempted to save.

“Sandra and I have crying spells together almost every day,” Moran said.

Not surprisingly, they have racked up hefty bills at several veterinary clinics. Luckily some vets, particularly Candy Boyd at McNeal Veterinary Hospital, have been generous in offering discounts and allowing Ferals in Need to pay off bills incrementally. David Parks of Coastal Animal Rescue has also been a big help.

Burgin believes the work done by herself and others who aid animals is morally right, but said it also just makes good sense, and that’s the argument she tries to make to people who don’t share her views about animals.

“If you don’t feed these feral cats and keep them all in one place, you’re really going to have a problem,” she said. “They’ll start scattering.”

They’ll be in yards and on highways looking for food, she said.

“Another thing a lot of people don’t know is that if a colony is cleared out, in no time at all another group of ferals come in, only these won’t be spayed or neutered,” Moran said.

Female cats that aren’t spayed can produce more than four litters every year, quickly adding to the feral cat population, which is in the tens of millions.

Ferals in Need is desperate for monetary donations, but there are other ways to help. The group needs donations of wet and dry cat food, cat litter, sheets and towels. The group would also like a business or group to sponsor fundraisers to help raise money to allow it to apply for 501(c)(3) status.

Additionally, volunteers are needed to foster animals.

Ferals in Need is also willing to offer assistance with trap, neuter and release programs in communities to raise money for its mission.

A yard sale Burgin and Moran have planned for April will be a fundraiser for Ferals in Need. Donations of items for the yard sale are being accepted.

For information about Ferals in Need, call 240-5655. Mail donations to PO Box 2104, Pawleys Island, S.C. 29585.

“We just want people to see the urgency in this,” Burgin said. “A lot of people want us to do all this stuff, but they don’t want to contribute anything. We want to keep doing this. We just can’t keep doing it by ourselves.”

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