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Home pur the holidays

Local pet adoption agencies explain the benefits of thoroughly vetting new pets and families this holiday season

By Kira Doman

Artic, who was housed by Happily Ever After, was recently adopted. Photo courtesy of Happily Ever After

As holiday decor begins to line the streets of Green Bay, some local families might be opening their homes, and laps, to furry friends.

This reality is not a new one for Marcus Reitz, director of branding and development for Happily Ever After (HEA). Reitz said December happens to be one of the most popular months families and individuals make the decision to bring in a new member to their household.

“Year over year, December is one of our highest adoption months,” Reitz said, “but we want people to be prepared for that decision so that it’s not just something where they walked in and said ‘I want a new dog or cat’ and by the end of the evening have decided they’ve made a mistake.”

HEA (2255 Fox Heights Lane) is an adoption agency that has operated in Green Bay since 2007. The organization also operates an animal sanctuary in Marion.

“We’re looking to create a world where the life of every companion animal matters,” Reitz said. “Every single one.”

This year alone, HEA has taken in over 700 animals from neglectful and harmful environments. In November, HEA celebrated its 5,000th adoption and will celebrate its 15 year anniversary in 2022.

Reitz said that this time of year he’s reminded of, and grateful for, the community that supports the organization’s efforts to safely provide a home for pets.

“The walls within Happily Ever After and the resources within Happily Ever After are finite,” Reitz said, “but if you look around the community there are a lot of places that animals could go to be helped on a temporary basis in a foster home.”

Homes for happy cats

At Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary (151 N Broadway), the adoption process involves a meet-and-greet with the cat, filling out a questionnaire that requires listing references who can attest to responsible ownership, providing proof of income that can cover the more costly expenses of owning a pet and describing the household to determine whether or not it suits the pet’s needs. Sometimes a home visit is necessary to conduct to finalize the adoption process.

This process (which is similar to HEA’s adoption process), contains steps to ensure both the family and pet are satisfied in their new environments.

“It’s really important to know certain things about cats, and dogs, when you adopt,” Safe Haven employee Jenny Knutson said. “They’re coming into a new place, they have no idea who you are. That’s why it’s important for a pet to get acclimated to your routine, voice, the sounds of its new home, etc.”

Knutson said this time of year, people tend to treat new pets as they would gifts purchased online.

“It’s such a throwaway society,” Knutson said, “everything has to move so quickly, so a lot of families will get a pet, give it a week, and if they’re not happy within a week they give it up. If you would have just given it another month, you would have had the happiest cat.”

Knutson said people often purchase from animal breeders and when they do so, they don’t conduct the research and forethought required before bringing an animal into their family, and then relieve it upon a local shelter when they’ve decided they can’t care for it.

Kittens Spark, Blaze, Cinder and Flame are among those available for adoption at Happily Ever After in Green Bay. The agency says the winter months see an uptick in service compared to the rest of the year. Photo courtesy of Happily Ever After

“The reality is that 3.2 million cats are surrendered to shelters each year,” Knutson said, “and only 30% make it out alive. So 70% are put down. That’s a huge percentage.”

At Safe Haven, Knutson said a majority of the cats returned aren’t stray or feral, they are cats that were adopted and then given away. She said she is concerned with the number of cats released into the wild who eventually end up at kill shelters.

“We need to shift people to helping these animals instead of killing them,” Knutson said. “The more people who go to rescues and shelters to adopt, rather than buying from backyard breeders in another state, the more we help the community. We take in the cats who would lose their lives on the street. By bringing them in, they get to have a good life.”

Safe Haven continues to grow. The shelter opened in De Pere in 2016 and soon after moved to the Broadway District in Green Bay. Knutson said the shelter has plans to open another location in Bellevue in 2022. Dubbed “Meowsabi,” the new location will be a sushi restaurant on one side and a cat lounge on the other.

“This place is a lifeline for homeless and broken cats,” Knutson said. “They come in here broken, we fix them.”

Kira Doman is an editor and freelance journalist who graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay in the Spring of 2021. Her editing work can be found in The Sheepshead Review, The Northern Lights and Ellis Clark’s 2020 novel “With You.” Her writings can be viewed in The Driftwood and Green Bay City Pages. She is passionate about subjects such as social justice, current affairs and the arts. In her spare time, she is a barista, an average yet avid hiker, and a full-time cat mom.

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