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French felines make life-changing journey to Burlington

“It’s nice when rescues work together as a team for the sake of the animals,” says Marsha Locke, animal care supervisor.

The Burlington Humane Society (BHS) welcomed some new residents last week from two Quebec shelters.  Sadly, these kitties were scheduled to be euthanized, but BHS was able to bring them to Burlington for a second chance at a new life.

On Tuesday November 13th, four cats from Quebec arrived via a “freedom drive.”  What is a freedom drive, you ask?  Well, it’s a pretty amazing example of what a community can do when it works together.  Eight volunteer drivers each took a portion of the eight- hour drive from Quebec to Burlington to meet up with the next driver, take the four cats into their car and drive an hour to meet the next driver in the chain.  That’s teamwork!

Three adorable kittens and one adult cat are now learning to speak English at BHS.  Just kidding!  They’re being checked out by a vet, so they can be ready for adoption and begin their new lives.

On Thursday November 15th, nine cats and kittens made an extraordinary journey from two overcrowded animal shelters in Quebec, to the Burlington Humane Society.  The first snowstorm of the season severely impacted their arrival.  What should have been an eight- hour drive, ended up taking 18 hours!  “They started their journey at midnight and should have been here at 10am,” said Doug Shirton, executive director of BHS.

The cat’s steadfast escort packed the van with 60 cats and kittens destined for rescue operations like Burlington Humane between Quebec and Toronto.  He made stops along the way dropping off cats in Belleville, Kingston, etc. until his journey brought him to Burlington.   The volunteer driver navigated the snowy 401 with his fearless kitties in their carriers until he could drop all of them off at their new rescue homes.  No matter how long it took, he didn’t quit.

Nine kitties arrived at BHS at 5:30pm, during the worst of the storm.  It was the driver’s second last stop.  He still had one cat with a broken leg who needed to go to a vet in Toronto by 7pm and he really wanted to get her there before they closed for the night.   Marsha insisted BHS keep the cat overnight, so the driver could get some rest and finish his last leg of the journey the next day.

Surprisingly, all of the cats have wonderful temperaments considering their long journey.  They were not able to eat or drink in their carriers, so they were really hungry when they arrived at BHS.  Now that they have arrived safely, they will never be hungry or thirsty again.

“They did come in with upper respiratory infections because stress can induce that in cats.  Some have eye infections, coughing and sneezing, so they’re being isolated in a separate room until they feel better,” said Marsha.

Once the kitties are over their colds and fully checked out by the vet, they will be ready for adoption.  These cats have been through a lot but despite it, they are all in good spirits and will make loving pets for some very lucky families.

Rescuing cats from Quebec on the euthanasia list is not something BHS has ever done before, but it wanted to try and help some of the pounds there make room.  In Quebec, not all shelters are no-kill shelters.  Rescue operations in Ontario, like BHS, are notified of available cats and they can “pull” them from the euthanasia list.  Marsha has contacts with some Quebec animal charities, so that’s how BHS was able to take in 13 cats.

But what do we do about all of the other cats that need to be taken off the “list?”.  Unfortunately, that’s a bigger problem outside of the scope of BHS.  In the meantime, it will keep trying to help in any way it can to save more lives like the Quebec kitties who arrived last week.

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