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Shelter in limbo

Jaffrey: After 12 years in one location, Kitty Rescue is forced to find a new home

As you walk into Kitty Rescue and Adoption in Jaffrey, there’s no beating around the bush. As soon as you’re through the door, you meet big cats, small cats, fuzzy cats, black cats, white cats, orange cats and every other kind of cat that fills the shelter. While Kitty Rescue and Adoption has stayed rent-free in its 11 Plantation Drive building since 2001, as of Jan.1, the shelter will need to start paying rent, or find a new place to call home.

For Heidi Bourgeois, one of the co-founders and now the director of Kitty Rescue and Adoption, finding a more permanent, better setup shelter space is the preferable option. Bourgeois of Jaffrey said things are cramped in the current building. “Right now, we have everything all over,” she said Tuesday. With winter weather coming, every cat has been moved inside, and some of the cats are currently in wire cages. Soon, though, they will be moving to the shelter’s large rooms. “The ultimate goal is to get cats into rooms,” Bourgeois said.

Regardless of where they are, the cats are cared for, loved, and perhaps eventually adopted. Kitty Rescue is a no-kill shelter, and for many of the cats that are feral, older, or sick, it becomes a permanent home. According to Bourgeois, the number of calls the shelter takes for unwanted or feral cats far outnumbers the cats going to new homes. “We’re always at capacity,” she said, noting that the shelter usually has around 150 cats at any one time, two-thirds of which are feral.

For those cats who are more inclined to go to another home, between three and six are adopted each week. The adoption fee of $95, which includes any medical attention like vaccinations and neutering or spaying the cats may need, is one of the main sources of income for the shelter. The annual budget of $44,750 to feed, house, and give medical attention to all the cats is paid for by adoption fees and donations.

Kitty Rescue and Adoption is run by unpaid volunteers, which come in the form of Franklin Pierce University students, cat enthusiasts, adopters and Bourgeois’ mother, Marianne Kevit, who travels from Antrim to help out on nights with fewer volunteers.

The shelter receives support in more ways than one. While Kitty Rescue received $22,000 in donations last year, the other half of the cost of running the shelter was picked up by benefactors. “A couple of people step up, if we’re in dire need,” Bourgeois said.

As the time approaches for the shelter to find a new home, Bourgeois is reaching out to the community for more aid. “We can afford to keep the shelter on a day-to-day basis, but a mortgage or rental [costs] would put us in hardship,” she said.

Recently, the shelter sent out a 1,200-piece mailer, and in the coming months they will host open houses and collect donations to put towards a new home. The next open house will be held on Dec. 7 from 2 to 5 p.m.

The shelter currently has a $25,000 bequest that can be used to purchase a new property. Bourgeois said the shelter is still in the looking stage of acquiring a new property, knowing the shelter needs a space between 2,000 and 4,000 square feet to house all of the cats. “We’re working with local realtors to see what they have available,” Bourgeois said, noting that the shelter is considering foreclosed homes, large estates and industrial buildings.

Kitty Rescue and Adoption is still negotiating with its current building owners about how much rent would be if the shelter were to stay in its present location. Bourgeois doesn’t think the shelter would have to commit to any long-term lease or agreement. “They’ve been very generous for the last 11 or 12 years,” she said.

The current building the shelter is housed in is an industrial building, zoned for industrial and commercial use. Bourgeois and her ex-husband had originally built the building for an auto-body garage, and then they sold it in 2001 to the family of the former co-founder of Kitty Rescue, Laura Gordon.

According to the shelter’s website, Bourgeois and Gordan began the shelter out of a mutual concern for feral cats found locally on the side of the road, near dumpsters and behind buildings. “You do see [ferals],” Bourgeois said. “It’s a huge problem.” Bourgeois said the cats are usually abused and not taken care of, which is why the shelter takes them in. “It’s sad,” she said. “Most people think cats are disposable.”

Clearly for Bourgeois and the many volunteers who help at the rescue, cats are very deserving of food, shelter and love, and in the future a new home. Bourgeois expects others to see this, too, cat-crazy or not. “Even if people don’t like cats, they’ve got to appreciate what we’re doing,” she said.

Kitty Rescue and Adoption is open Monday through Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and by appointment.

Elodie can be reached by phone at 924-7172 ext. 228, or by email at Elodie is also on Twitter @elodie_reed.

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