By WHITNEY LITTLE
Eagle Staff Writer
Technically Gail Allen has no sons or daughters, but she has more than 100 children.
The woman behind The Cat’s Cradle, a no-kill animal rescue shelter outside Navasota, has been housing cats and kittens for nearly 10 years.
Allen shares her 125-acre home site outside Navasota with more than 100 cats … and 50 litter boxes. She said she spends five to six hours a day cleaning to keep the cats healthy and happy.
Her rescue work began after she found animals that had been dumped along the county road by her house.
“Once I had about nine cats, it dawned on me that it wasn’t going to stop,” Allen said.
The Cat’s Cradle is one of the area’s many no-kill shelters dedicated to finding homes for animals.
Recent statistics from the Humane Society of the United States indicate that more than half of the animals taken to shelters are euthanized, so owners say their no-kill shelters fill an important role. Most will take in dogs or cats, but some – like True Blue Animal Rescue (T-Bar) in Brenham – also rescue other animals.
Melanie DeAeth of T-Bar said she and her husband wanted to create a shelter for all types of animals, including horses. In 2006, T-Bar found homes for 30 horses as well as 84 dogs and 43 cats.
“[The increasing animal population] is such a huge problem,” DeAeth said. “Our goal is to eliminate that problem.”
Della Carroll, who shares that goal, said she was called to open God’s Little Creatures in a vision.
“God came to me and told me to take care of his little creatures,” she said. “So I started taking in dogs until I couldn’t take any more.”
God’s Little Creatures, like most local shelters, stays afloat through donations. Sometimes, however, many shelter owners must pay out of their own pockets to cover everything from utilities to cleaning supplies, collars, food and veterinary care.
Allen said the average life span of a no-kill facility is four to five years because of a lack of space. The Cat’s Cradle, however, has been around for nearly 10 years.
“I think God has a hand in it,” Allen said. “When something comes along like [Hurricane] Katrina, I go over my numbers. Right now I’m at capacity. But we find a way to make it work.”
Carroll, who is currently housing between 20 and 30 dogs, said she always needs more room. “I have to turn down many people because of space,” she said. “I refuse to chain the dogs and put them outside. It’s just cruel.”
The Pet Adoption and Animal Welfare Society, PAAWS for short, which has rescued more than 130 animals since its inception in August 2005, is constantly at capacity.
“We are pretty much filled, and people are still calling us [to take in abandoned animals],” said board member Sherri Smith. “I hate having to turn them down. It’s hard to say ‘no’ to an animal.”
If one owner needs help – for instance, his or her shelter is at capacity but someone calls about a needy animal – another shelter often will offer assistance.
“We all try to help each other,” Carroll said. “The most important thing is helping that animal find a home.”
The process of locating new homes for animals varies by shelter. Most require an interview and home visit, and there is usually an adoption fee to cover shelter costs.
Once the animals are adopted, it’s a bittersweet ending for the shelter owners, who grow attached to the animals.
“We spend months working with them, loving them and showing them that they can trust humans again,” Allen said. “It’s a huge commitment that you make to [the animals]. You understand what they have gone through, and there’s nothing like the beauty of saving them from their suffering.”
And shelter owners know more than enough about the suffering. Each has a story to tell about the conditions in which they find some of the abandoned animals.
Smith said she has seen animal cruelty at its worst: kittens tied up in plastic bags, dogs with broken legs left beside a road, and animals who have died from starvation in their owners’ back yards. “When we started, we had the idea we could save them all,” she said, “but that just doesn’t work. It breaks my heart.
“I just get really furious when I see there’s not much done to these people [who abuse animals]. It’s just got to stop.”
Allen agrees, saying that despite The Cat’s Cradle’s success stories, “We also see the worst. That takes a huge toll on you.
“Once you are sensitized to their plight, you just notice them. I can look at a cat and tell if it’s in trouble. … You can feel their suffering. You can see the fear and abandonment in their eyes.
“These animals don’t deserve to be treated like that. No one does.”
Smith said that, even though the animals have been through the worst, they are resilient. “Most of them would come out
of it with a little love and care,” she said, which is why every shelter constantly needs volunteers to spend time
socializing with the animals.
“I know there are people out there who care, but the question is whether they care enough to do something about it, to take the time to help these animals,” she said.
Those that have taken the time – the shelter owners and volunteers – find their efforts are rewarding, despite the
“To me, these dogs are my kids,” Carroll said. “It’s a lot of hard work – really hard. I work for a living, then I come home and take care of the dogs. But as long as the Lord keeps me going, I’ll keep doing it.”
DeAeth shares the sentiment, and said that T-Bar will be around as long as needed. “It has to be done. No one else will do it. You can’t turn your back on these animals.”
To the shelter owners, the rescue work is not just a side project.
“I’ve started to love animals more than people,” Smith said. “Some people think those involved in the rescue business don’t care about people. … Well, of course I care about people. But the animals can’t speak for themselves. There is nothing out there for them, and they need help really badly.
“If people would only realize what these animals will do for you. It’s definitely unconditional love.”
â€¢ Whitney Little’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brazos Valley No-Kill Organizations
No-kill organizations in the Brazos Valley include the ones listed below. Most are pleased to receive donations that defray the costs of housing, veterinary care, food, cleaning supplies, etc. Many also need volunteers to help with the animals’ socialization.
â€¢ Brazos Valley Golden Retriever Rescue, Bryan, 779-9091, brazosvalleygoldens.com
â€¢ The Cat’s Cradle, Navasota, 979-820-0599, thecatscradle.net
â€¢ CJ’s Animal Junction Farm and Sanctuary, Iola, 936-394-1718
â€¢ God’s Little Creatures, Bryan, 778-6976
â€¢ Mr. K’s Pet Shelter, Caldwell, 832-891-1447, mrkspetshelter.org
â€¢ Pet Adoption and Animal Welfare Society (PAAWS), Lyons, 979-535-4059, paaws-tx.org
â€¢ True Blue Animal Rescue, Brenham, 936-878-2349, t-bar.org
â€¢ Woodstock Animal Foundation, College Station, 261-0022, woodstocktexas.org