There’s a new sanctuary in Middletown unlike all others in our area. But I can’t tell you where it is. Really, I don’t know. Few people do. The mayor and a select few others know, including some city feral cats who were moved there after living on the streets and in the sewers.
“Many residents may not be aware that in the past, there was a huge, constantly reproducing cat population in Middletown,” reported Robyn Stewart, founder of Dumped Stray Animal Rescue. “Through hard work and consistent monitoring, the population has become manageable. Thankfully, the city has donated land for a sanctuary. We are in the process of constructing kennels to acclimate the soon-to-be relocated cats.”
The sanctuary is currently constructing phase one, a fenced-in, 2,500 square foot area where roughly 150 cats can safely live comfortably.
Large outdoor dog kennels will house the relocated cats until they acclimate in about six to eight weeks. Hopefully by then, a cattery, fencing erected on a portion of the donated nine acres, will give the cats more freedom to move about in a secured, safe space.
The first groups of some 40 cats being relocated are from large colonies on South and Washington streets. The sanctuary project will be ongoing.
“Although we have cared for and trapped, neutered and released cats in these areas for many years,” said Stewart, “the continuous development of the downtown businesses and restaurants has created more of a sense of urgency as far as finding a permanent home for them.”
DSAR has TNR’d 555 cats in the last three years and find homes for as many as possible. The sanctuary will house only the cats that cannot become pets and will be provided vet care, shelter, food, water and a safe place for the rest of their lives.
DSAR has had help realizing its dream of creating the sanctuary. Boy Scouts built a feeding station. Coolers to be used for cat houses were donated from a surprising, if not a bit morbid, source – a medical company who uses them only once for transporting body parts for transplants. Stewart assured me the parts were double-bagged before going into the ice-filled cooler and are perfectly sanitary for the cats. The New Jersey company has donated 26 coolers so far.
Not only has the city donated the land, they are helping fund feral spay/neuters.
“We’ve been working with different groups regarding the feral cat population in the downtown area,” said Mayor Joseph DeStefano. “Robin has been the point person, and we took it to the next step. We worked with her on city property in the woods somewhere, and we’re providing a little habitat for her and her volunteers to run this cat sanctuary.
“They’ll continue to work in the neighborhoods, too. It’s a passion from the heart for Robin and the others, something they should be commended for. We’re fortunate to have a vet, Dr. Paul Johnson, on our board who knows the needs and what’s necessary to make this thing work. We have passionate volunteers who really care and are fortunate to have a place where we can provide the location.”
Setting up the sanctuary isn’t just getting donations and moving them in. The dog kennels have to be erected, and the open tops where a cat could climb out has to be chicken-wired and zip-tied to the fencing.
DSAR needs donations for its goal of 2,500 square feet of fencing with an escape-proof conversion fence at the top. Volunteers are needed to erect it, “Only if they can keep their mouths shut,” said Stewart.
Why all the secrecy?
“Because we don’t want people dropping off their cats,” she said.
The sanctuary also has motion-sensor cameras, but could use more, that send pictures to Stewart’s phone for security.
“Our overall goal for our rescue remains the same,” said Stewart. “To encourage all pet owners to spay and neuter their pets. We will continue to rehabilitate, vet and rehome as many stray cats and kittens as possible. The cat sanctuary will be home to all the cats that have been let down by our society, the cats that have been dumped, ignored, abandoned and forgotten.
“We know there are animals out there and want them to be safe in a good place.”