Pam and Oren Robinson of Rochester have always been cat people. More often than not, a few furry felines would find a comfortable home with their family.
“They’ve always been a passion of ours,” said Oren. “We adopted a few from shelters but that wasn’t really solving the problem.”
The problem is too many cats. Whether feral, abused, neglected, or just not fixed, there is a large surplus of cats in the Tri-Town area.
In 2009, the Robinsons decided to try to help reduce the problem by starting their own shelter from their home in Rochester, named It’s All About The Animals. Since its inception, the no-kill shelter, which the Robinsons financed exclusively, has found homes for over 250 cats.
“We put a lot of time and effort into these animals. They are our children,” he said.
“We’re the only shelter where, when you adopt a cat from us, that cat has everything it needs for its first year,” she said.
The facility is made up of several small buildings, each with a specific purpose like the clinic and the dormitory. Cats almost always roam freely within the buildings and are caged only on occasion.
“When we first get the animals, they have to be isolated for two to three weeks before joining the other cats,” she said. “In the past, we’ve gotten a mother and her litter and we had to keep them in a cage while they nursed. Kittens are very susceptible to sickness.”
Around the dormitory, the cats socialize constantly, whether by napping with one another or playing with the myriad amount of toys around the floor.
“Socialization is the key. It makes all the difference,” she said.
The shelter is also a registered non-profit, recognized and certified by the Massachusetts Attorney General. The operation is supported mostly through donations and directly by the Robinsons. The money they receive isn’t enough to alleviate the full financial burden associated with a full-service, seven-day-a-week shelter.
“We’re here all the time, this is our home. If people need to call me at three in the morning, I know that it must be serious and they need us,” she said.
In March of 2011, Pam and Oren began the application process to be granted 501(c)3 non-profit status. If the federal government recognized their facility, donations would be tax deductible and the Robinsons are hoping to see an increase as a result. They are still waiting to hear back from the IRS, 10 months after completing the paperwork.
“We want to be able to help people out more. We’d like to be able to subsidize spaying and neutering the cats,” he said.
The Robinsons have been working with the Town of Rochester because there are very few by-laws in the state dealing specifically with cat shelters.
“She’s been digging through the Massachusetts General Laws and hasn’t really found anything. There’s some for kennels and dog shelters, but not for what we have here,” he said.
The Robinsons hope to schedule a public hearing in January of next year with the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals to discuss those complications.
Adoption fees range anywhere from $110-$160 per cat, which is low considering the preparations for each animal undertaken by the Robinsons and the 24/7 assistance they offer each family that adopts their cats.
In order to adopt, each family meets with Pam, where they discuss why they are interested in a cat.
“I sit down with them for about an hour and we just talk. It’s amazing what people will tell you if you just sit there and listen. I learn all sorts of things about people,” she said.
Honesty is the best policy with her and if she senses anything else, she won’t allow them to adopt.
“I know if something is going on. If I feel like I have to schedule an in-home visit, you’re not getting an animal,” she said.
Their policy of honest adoption goes both ways. The Robinsons provide all the information they have on every animal to each adopting family. That trust has blossomed into friendships in some cases.
“We always get phone calls from people and a lot of our families send us Christmas cards,” he said.
At the close of 2012, all of the cats at the shelter have been adopted and are waiting to be picked up. There are always more cats that need care but It’s All About The Animals has a positive track record so far.
“This area needs a shelter. Marion doesn’t have one. Mattapoisett doesn’t have one,” she said. “We’re trying to serve a good purpose for the community. We’re here for the cats of the Tri-Town.”
By Eric Tripoli