In 2013, 30 cats and 40 dogs from the Bethel area found themselves at Responsible Pet Care in South Paris.

They were among a total of 390 cats and 172 dogs from 21 towns brought to the no-kill shelter. ROC  has s a capacity of 150 cats and 15 dogs at its new facility off High Street.

It’s filled to capacity with cats right now, with another 15 felines in foster homes. The current dog population stands at 10.

Lucille Larsen, the shelter’s manager, said the trend in recent years has been an increase in the numbers of animals coming into RPC.

She said it’s mainly economy-related. In some cases, she said, “It’s people losing their homes.” When the people lose their homes, the pets lose their people.

But in the big picture, the vast majority of cats are strays – only 32 last year were given up by their owners.

Many of the dogs are also strays, and a sizeable portion of them are returned to their owners. Of the rest, siixty-one were adopted last year. Almost no stray cats are claimed by owners, Larsen said.

When a stray pet comes in, it’s nearly always via the animal control officer for the town where it was found.

In the immediate Bethel area, 10 cats came from Bethel, 11 from Woodstock, six from Greenwood and two from Gilead in 2013. Among local dogs, 18 came from Bethel, 10 from Woodstock, nine from Greenwood and one from Gilead.

For cats the RPC now charges the town $22 each. The organization contracts with towns on a per capita basis for sheltering stray dogs.

Options for cats

The cats are spayed or neutered and given the shots they need. Then, if they are sociable enough, they are put up for adoption. Last year 367 found homes.

Larsen takes pride in the success RPC has in domesticating feral cats (which have lived with no or little contact with people).

And for those cats that just don’t want to share their lives with people, hope is not lost. They can find a place in the “Barn Buddies” program, which Larsen has personally overseen for about a decade.

“People come in and want a cat for their barn [to help keep the rodent population down],” said Larsen.

Under the program they are required to take two cats. In return they make a donation in an amount of their choice.

“In 2013 we placed 27 cats,” Larsen said.

The cats are not turned loose in the barns to simply fend for themselves, however. The adopters feed and keep the felines up to date on shots.

Then there’s the Trap, Neuter and Release program. If a farmer, for example, finds himself being overrun with reproducing stray or feral cats, RPC helps pay for neutering and other care to try to keep the population in check and healthy.

RPC is now getting some help with sheltering animals in the Bethel area from the recently established Heart of the Mountains shelter for dogs.

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