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These people make a difference

She saved a dog. Luna also saved her.

Deanna Viera’s voice broke as she talked about the recent loss of her husband, a man she loved so dearly.

Yes, this mother of five is still surrounded by her little loved ones. But Luna, a brown-haired mixed breed with white legs and a white chest, along with Viera’s other animals, helps ease the pain she tries not to expose to her children, who range in age from 5 to 16.

“I lean on the dogs for comfort… and connection,” Rivera said between pauses. “When I take them for walks and stuff, it gives me time to relax and focus, and take my mind off things, and not be so stressed.”

Luna, the third dog fostered by this family, is settling into her new home in Beechwood; a stay with two other dogs and two guinea pigs. In the coming months, the family will decide whether to adopt Luna or allow others to do so. Either way, Luna’s temporary placement will likely save a dog or cat’s life. That’s because every available animal shelter kennel has a facility that can support another four-legged friend.

Breeding pets alone will not solve Rochester’s animal crisis. In Rochester and Western New York, hundreds of dogs and cats are euthanized every year because they suffer from behavioral or medical problems or simply cannot find homes. However, if every saved paw equals progress, this fostering tactic can make a significant dent, says Lauren Kunz, president of Habitat for Cats Inc., a nonprofit organization that specializes in rehoming sick, injured or feral cats.

“It can help get animals off the street that would otherwise not have a chance to end up in a full shelter,” says Kunz.

What does it mean to adopt a dog or cat?

(From left to right) Deanna Viera, Elissa Lopez and Elicia Lopez join Luna, a future foster dog, on a walk as Rochester Animal Services volunteer Ann Marie Switzer hands over the brown-haired mixed-breed treats on Wednesday, April 10, 2024.

(From left to right) Deanna Viera, Elissa Lopez and Elicia Lopez join Luna, a future foster dog, on a walk as Rochester Animal Services volunteer Ann Marie Switzer hands over the brown-haired mixed-breed treats on Wednesday, April 10, 2024.

People who foster pets usually receive sufficient supplies for their four-legged friends. Food. Treats. Toys. Crates. Even training.

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In 2023, Kunz’s organization helped more than 850 cats find homes. About 700 cats were spayed or neutered – a mix of wild and friendly.

This is especially important now that the City of Rochester has announced that the Verona Street Animal Shelter will not accept animals surrendered by residents through April 28. The outdated shelter is at full capacity; the intake of animals exceeds the number of fosters and adoptions.

Nationally, 6.5 million animals end up in shelters every year. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that fewer than half are ever adopted. The Humane Society reports that 28% of dogs and 31% of cats are adopted from shelters each year.

“There are a lot of great dogs that unfortunately ended up in bad circumstances. That doesn’t make them bad dogs,” said Dianne Iannello, co-founder of Pets Stop Here Rescue.

“That just means we have to put them in a thriving situation where they can be the best dog they can be.”

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On Wednesday, Rochester Animal Services employees will bring in a cartload of donated dog food.On Wednesday, Rochester Animal Services employees will bring in a cartload of donated dog food.

On Wednesday, Rochester Animal Services employees will bring in a cartload of donated dog food.

A cat lover who doesn’t say no

Brave heart. Achilles. Beethoven. Anubis. Starburst. Leah.

And so many, many more stories.

For more than twenty years, Rhonda Haefele has fostered hundreds of cats in Rochester. She sees it as fulfilling.

“Everything from taking in an injured, sick animal and watching it grow into this beautiful animal, to taking in a wild animal that is crazy and scared and turning it into a beautiful, adoptable, happy cat,” she said. “Taking in a pregnant mother who is about to give birth and watching her babies grow and play and learn and experience life. Everything about it is great.”

Some cats die occasionally, which is heartbreaking. But Haefele, whose professional background includes working as a pharmacy technician, said the successful results outweigh the problems. And still never forget: if she didn’t do this, what happened to these cats?

Haefele and her boyfriend, fellow animal advocate Steven Drave, have created a foster room in their home that can house 12 cats, with plenty of toys, stretchy surfaces, hiding places and beds. Even a television where they can watch cat-friendly videos.

How can you raise dogs and cats in Rochester?

Foster care can last weeks to months. To participate in the city’s foster care program, email christie.hall@cityofrochester.gov, call (585) 428-8675 or apply online at https://www.cityofrochester.gov/PetFosterForm /.

Animals can range in age from newborns to adult cats. Some animals may sustain injuries that are not conducive to shelter. Prospective foster parents should be notified in advance of any injuries or illnesses.

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Rochester Animal Services has stated that it provides all food, supplies and veterinary care. The city also recommends several community partners for pet care. View the full list at https://www.cityofrochester.gov/FosterAPet/.

What happens if you want to keep your foster dog or foster cat?

Some people think it’s hard to pet a foster family. Because once you have a bond with the dog or cat, how do you let him move on to a new foster home?

Iannello from Pets Stop Here Rescue asks them to look at the issue from a different perspective. Returning a foster dog after the agreed period (and selecting a new dog) is a lot better than dying in a shelter because one of them can’t find a temporary or permanent home.

After volunteering at the Verona Street Animal Shelter, Iannello and Dawn Saunders decided to open Pets Stop Here Rescue. Since 2016, the Spencerport-based nonprofit has rescued more than 300 dogs.

The organization currently has 28 dogs in its rescue program, as well as 16 foster parents. The number of foster parents often decreases when they decide to adopt their four-legged friends. That is a good and a not so good situation.

One less dog without a permanent home. But often one less person to temporarily house dogs.

Grooming pets can improve socialization

The Rivera family planned to adopt Jada, their last four-legged foster. But before mom could file the paperwork, another family did.

So they waited about a month before adopting another dog; in case Jada doesn’t adjust well to her new home, which Rivera says has a cat in it. Later she was told that Jada is doing well.

And now also Luna.

Fostering pets can improve socialization between animals and people.

Luna probably doesn’t need it. She knows how to give the Riveras her paw. When she first saw the children, she wagged her tail. She quickly discovered where her bed was in the house. And she knows all her commands.

“She looks like she’s going to be a sweetheart,” Rivera said, “and eventually she’ll sleep in my bed.”

— Gary Estwick is an editor at USA TODAY Network.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Rochester Animal Shelter: These People Are Making a Difference

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