May 24, 2019 | 62° F

Rutgers animal welfare network connects foster animals with forever homes


Courtesy of Mary Ann Cancio | Nida Ahmed, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, fosters kittens with Scarlet Paws. This nonprofit helps connect homeless pets with families able to care for them long-term.

“Never say no,” is the mission of Scarlet Paws, an animal welfare network based at Rutgers, Mary Ann Cancio said.

Scarlet Paws does not have a physical facility, but instead operates as a network, where all of their animals are kept in foster homes.

The network aims to provide resources to those who reach out to them for help.

The services provided by Scarlet Paws vary, ranging from rescuing, fostering and transporting the pets, Cancio, president of Scarlet Paws, said.

“I field questions from the community,” Cancio said. 

A majority of her work involves connecting people with those who can help them, she said. 

Scarlet Paws has numerous resources for helping people with pet-related queries.

If a pet is not spayed or neutered, Scarlet Paws can provide contact information for the low-cost clinics.

They also field questions regarding strays, feral animals, injured animals and people who may need to surrender pets. 

“I do my very best to email (everybody) back (or) to call them back,” she said. “I can usually direct them (or) advise them.”

Typically whoever reported the animal will serve as the temporary foster parent. Scarlet Paws provides crates, flea medication, food and any other necessary equipment.

While this is happening, they are also referring out, trying to arrive at the best way to help the lost animal.

“We’ll help you find the home,” Cancio said.

Adoption is taken seriously by Scarlet Paws. The organization does not want cats to be returned and placed into foster care again.

The screening process to adopt an animal is thorough. The organization wants to ensure the potential owner understands the animal's needs and personalities.

Scarlet Paws only adopts animals that are fully “vetted," meaning they are spayed or neutered and vaccinated depending on the animal’s age.

Cancio described a situation this past spring in which a Rutgers student had been regularly feeding a cat near his off-campus apartment. His mother contacted Scarlet Paws as the semester was ending and asked for help regarding the cat.

The student was able to trap the cat and its four kittens and bring her to Scarlet Paws. 

Nida Ahmed, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, volunteers with Scarlet Paws and fosters kittens and said not having to commit to the responsibility of caring for a pet for 15 or 20 years is beneficial.

At other organizations, the foster parent must bring the foster animal in for adoption hours at the pet store.

“That became a lot to do just because I was a student,” Ahmed said.

When Ahmed got her second foster animal, named Bella, the cat she spent the first two and a half days under Ahmed's bed, she said. 

But after about two to three months, Bella began to come out from under the bed. And by the end of her time in foster care, she would flop over and ask for tummy rubs.

Ahmed said it is likely that Bella did not have good experiences with people in the past. But, after being given space, she was able to grow more comfortable. 

“We had a couple of opportunities to get her adopted that we passed up,” Ahmed said. 

Most people were not ready for a cat like Bella. When Scarlet Paws finally found the perfect person, everything just clicked, she said, adding: “(Ahmed) wanted to give Bella a home on Bella’s terms." 

Fostering has allowed Ahmed to still enjoy having a pet without the the commitment.

It’s incredibly fulfilling, she said. But she does not have to worry about full veterinary care, nor does she have to worry about how the responsibility of pet ownership will impact her, or her companion, for the lifespan of the animal.

Scarlet Paws also provides litter or food to those who foster cats.

“I know if I ever need it, I can ask,” Ahmed said.

Faith Hoatson is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. She is a correspondent for The Daily Targum.

Faith Hoatson

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