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Rescue service puts stray pets' information online

December 22, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

A local animal rescue service now offers online adoption services.

Hagerstown-based KitCat & Critter Rescue Inc. in October began posting stray animal adoption information on Petfinder.com at www.petfinder.com/shelters/MD165.html on the Web.

"There are a lot of people who use the Internet to look for pets. It provides a whole new avenue for adoptions," KitCat founder Ruth Rowe said.

Petfinder.com is a free, searchable database that showcases homeless pets from more than 6,000 shelters worldwide. Each pet has its own home page, which features a description and usually a photo. Potential adopters can search by area, type of pet, breed, size, age and gender. Pets that match the search criteria are ranked in proximity to the searcher's zip code. And Petfinder.com provides two months worth of free pet insurance to searchers who adopt pets using the Web site.

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Rowe has posted information about dozens of KitCat's rescued animals - mostly stray cats, but also a few homeless guinea pigs - since Petfinder.com participant Second Chance Rescue of Inwood, W.Va., suggested the Web site as an adoption resource, Rowe said. KitCat & Critter Rescue had more than 30 stray cats listed on Petfinder.com as of the second week in December - including Nu-Nu, a domestic shorthair with huge green eyes and a black and white "tuxedo coat," and Zenabelle, a sweet-tempered brown tabby.

"She's not a hold-me kitty," KitCat Vice President and animal foster parent Ruby Swartz said of Zenabelle, "but she likes to be petted and loved."

Swartz should know. She cares for a whole slew of stray cats at her Hagerstown area home. Swartz, Rowe and about 13 other active volunteers for the nonprofit animal rescue service now provide temporary homes for more than 100 cats, all of which are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and tested for feline leukemia and AIDS. Volunteers also have rescued dogs, goats, hamsters, guinea pigs, fish, lizards and birds, Rowe said.

But it's the kitties that occupy most of the volunteers' time and a great deal of their own money, Swartz said. KitCat depends upon donations to pay for veterinary bills, pet food and other costs. And those expenses add up - especially when stray cats remain in volunteers' care for extended amounts of time. Swartz, for example, has cared for Zenabelle for about five years.

"We work to pay to take care of cats," Swartz said. "You can't find homes. Word-of-mouth and calling people just isn't doing it. And most everybody wants kittens."

Petfinder.com offers hope for more widespread adoption success, Rowe said.

She's adopted out at least five strays since joining the Petfinder.com network, and her organization's posted pets - photos of which are not yet included with descriptions because KitCat doesn't own a digital camera - have received up to 200 Web hits per month since October, according to Rowe and weekly reports from PetFinder.com.

The user-friendly service is free for participating shelters, which also receive e-mail offers for discounted pet-related products and services, Rowe said.

Petfinder.com facilitated more than 1 million adoptions in 2002.

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