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Animal Shelter Manager Helps Pets Find New Home

By Cindy Atoji Keene

There can be as many as 20 dogs, 50 cats, several birds, bunnies and other small animals housed at the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s Cape Cod Adoption Center, located in Brewster. From time to time, there are also chickens, horses and wildlife – up to 1,300 animals a year that are saved from abandonment and neglect or just need a new home. It takes a small staff and an army of volunteers to keep up with the demands of the shelter, said manager Sandra Luppi. “Egos are checked at the door because nobody is above picking up pet poop or vomit,” said Luppi, who added that the animals, some of which are abused or sick, often need constant care and training before they’re adoptable. And in addition to handling the animals, there’s also the dynamic of dealing with an ever-changing parade of people, some of whom are surrendering a loved pet because of economic hardship.

Q: Are you ever surprised by the kind of animals that might come through the door of the shelter?
A: In this line of work, I’ve seen many different types of animals, both domestic and wildlife, including snakes, hedgehogs, opossums and raccoons. The rescue league has an animal ambulance that responds to calls, whether it’s a cat stuck in a tree or an injured seabird. We have a barn that is primarily used as a holding center for animals seized through our law enforcement department, where we have had horses, goats, ponies, as well as a trio of miniature horses.

Q: How has the economy affected domestic animals and local shelters?
A: Sadly, I think effects of foreclosure have had an impact, especially during the height of the recession. People have surrendered a pet because they couldn’t afford to live in their house any more. That’s where we come in – our role in the community is to provide a safe and caring place for people who can’t keep their pets, and greet them in a compassionate and non-judgmental way. They have the assurance that the pet will be well-cared for, and have the space they need to continue their lives.

Q: How do you help pet owners find lost dogs or cats?
A: We take reports of animals that are lost and found, and offer advice on how to look for pets. If an animal has been seen but is difficult to capture, we will often refer owners or animal control officers to our rescue department in Boston. They have the technical rescue skills and equipment necessary to help capture even the very elusive.

Q: Has it always been your dream to work with animals?
A: I have a great love for animals. When I saw an injured animal by the side of the road, I’d turn around and go back to help them. My initial dream was to be a veterinarian. I didn’t end up going to vet school but ended up in a traditional office environment. I had a good career but when I heard there was an opportunity at the rescue league, I decided to take a chance and apply.

Q: How do you keep the shelter from smelling like poop?
A: I do have to say that we get a lot of compliments on the cleanliness of the shelter. We are very diligence in keeping up on the animal care and making sure bedding and cages are always clean. There’s the added benefit of our indoor and outdoor runs which make for nice airflow throughout the building. The shelter needs to be a clean, happy environment because we are setting an example for how animals should be taken care of.

Q: Have you ever adopted a pet from the shelter?
A: Yes, I have one currently. He is a very smart and spoiled 11-year-old beagle. He was very shy and not very interactive and needed some socializing. I had recently lost my 14-year-old dog, so I just took to this guy. I love beagles in general since my grandparents had them growing up. It was an easy adoption.

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