Love comes in all sizes. This is something that I have learned and experienced over the last few years through my involvement with a local animal rescue: Kingston Animal Rescue. I’d always considered myself a “dog person,” so when I was asked by the one of the co-founders if I would foster a degu who had been seized from an animal hoarding situation, I was weary. I had no experience with rodents, nor was I sure that I wanted one in my home. Flash forward four years later, and I’ve taken care of three degus and multiple adorable guinea pigs (a few of whom we’ve adopted along the way = foster failure). I’ve gained a huge understanding, appreciation, and love for these animals who deserve a chance at a good life, and have been inspired by the dedication of the rescue to finding their “furever” homes.
Founded in 2010 by Jessica Hellard, Kareen Lush and Alison Migneault, Kingston Animal Rescue (aka KAR) is a 100% volunteer-run and foster-home based (no shelter or facility) organization whose mission is to use rescue, rehabilitation, adoption and education to end the suffering of animals. It is a registered charity and in 2013-14, 97.3% of their revenue went directly to medical care, food and housing for our animals. Impressively, for a volunteer-run organization, KAR has rescued 387 animals in the Kingston area to date. However, this number is on the rise as they acquire more foster homes and resources.
Recently, I had to opportunity to speak to co-founder Alison Migneault about KAR, why people should adopt and how you can make a difference to the lives of animals in Kingston.
1. Kingston has regional animal rescues. Why was KAR established? What niche does it fill and how did you become involved?
When Kingston Animal Rescue was established in 2010, the local humane society was the primary organization helping animals. Most of the rescues and other animal-related organizations that exist now did not exist then. We started KAR out of a love for rabbits. They are the third most surrendered animal to shelters and are very misunderstood. They can live 10-plus years, require lots of space and specialized care. While we started KAR out of a love of rabbits, we had a vision to help all animals, given the massive pet overpopulation crisis Kingston — like other municipalities — is dealing with— hence Kingston Animal Rescue was born.
I personally became involved in the early days, when KAR was just an idea another co-founder, Jessica Hellard, had. We met while volunteering for the humane society and then met Kareen Lush, the other co-founder. The three of us brought KAR to life.
2. Where do the animals come from and what happens to them once they enter the rescue?
We are focused on what we call “last-chance” animals. These are animals that likely have nowhere else to go: animals facing euthanasia in a shelter, stray animals and animals with special medical needs. Once in our care they usually see a veterinarian for a health assessment. From there, they move to a foster home — a volunteer committed to loving and caring for the animal in their home. Foster homes are vital to our organization. The animals are put up for adoption, and all cats and rabbits are spayed/neutered prior to, unless they are too young, in which case this is included in the adoption fee and scheduled when they are old enough.
3. What does “no kill” mean?
No kill means that we never euthanize an animal due to space and that we do everything possible to save an animal. We will only consider euthanasia if it is truly a compassionate decision: the animal is suffering and there is no potential for recovery. We go to great lengths for our animals. Some examples include: providing steroid injections for a rat with a brain tumour, providing life-saving surgery for a cat with a urinary blockage (he was 24 hours away from dying – the surgery we provided eliminated the potential of future issues), caring for a rabbit with glaucoma (requiring daily eye medication), taking in a guinea pig with back-end paralysis, and providing several surgeries for a cat with a fractured pelvis, broken jaw and broken tail. These are just a few of myriad examples.
4. Why should people adopt an animal from rescues like KAR versus from a pet store or breeder?
Every adoption saves a life. The fact is there are far more animals than there are homes for. We have a significant pet overpopulation issue. One of the ways to begin to address this is to support of organizations that are working to solve this problem. Adopting a rescue animal means that you open up a spot for another animal to be saved. It also means you are not financially supporting people and businesses that are actively contributing to the pet overpopulation problem. With a bit of research and patience, you can truly find any type and breed of animal you desire.
5. KAR was influential in the decision to no longer allow the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores in Kingston. What further changes would you like to see to local by-laws regarding animals?
KAR championed the pet store by-law and brought it before city council. We advocated, argued, presented and rallied support. We saw how a by-law like this (which restricts the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores to those from a rescue or shelter) could do for euthanasia and adoption rates. We are exceptionally proud that Kingston has one of the most progressive by-laws in the country. We are also very pleased that Kingston amended the breeding by-laws in the city, by creating stricter requirements and creating a by-law for rabbit breeding.
Next, we would love to see more animals, such as guinea pigs, included in this by-law. This by-law not only begins to address the pet overpopulation crisis, but it protects animals by helping to ensure that animals find good homes (shelters and rescues have an application and approval process). The more types of animals covered by the by-law, the better.
6. Tell us about one of your favourite success, rescue and adoption stories.
When rescuing animals, every story is your favourite. Truly, every single life is a life that matters and a life that has been saved. I think one of my personal favourite stories is about Bugsy, the paralyzed guinea pig. He came to us after he was dropped by accident. His back end was paralyzed, but the little guy had such heart and character. He wasn’t in pain and after several assessments, we felt that euthanasia was not an option. We expected him to be in the rescue long-term and decided to bond him to a baby guinea pig named Bruce to improve his quality of life. To our amazement, a lovely adopter came along and adopted Bugsy and Bruce, providing them with a great life and committing to Bugsy’s special needs.
Our involvement in three OSPCA cruelty seizures, most recently the intake of 11 rabbits and 3 guinea pigs from a home in Amherstview, also stands out. These animals have suffered horribly. It’s a privilege to be involved in those first few steps towards the life they deserve.
How can you help?
Being 100% volunteer-run means that KAR need support and help from the community to continue the work they do. This can take a few forms: fostering an animal, volunteering to help in other ways like driving, working at events and so on, or supporting them financially by providing much-needed funding. For more information on how to get involved or to see adoptable animals, go to their website and check out the many ways to donate.