By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY February 28, 2006 In Sullivan County, there's a sad tale of "summer people" abandoning uncounted numbers of "pets" when they head back to the metro area.
After relaxing in the Catskills for a few weeks with the kids and a pet or two, they leave the animals behind to starve, freeze to death or be taken in by locals folks who give a damn about castoff animals that have apparently outlived their usefulness.
On a recent Saturday, Tractor Supply Company of Liberty hosted an animal adoption day sponsored by the Animal Welfare Alliance in an effort to find new homes for a few lonely animals.
The local non-profit animal adoption group was founded a few years ago by Laura Miller of Liberty.
"It's Laura, Henni [Anker] and me," said Heidi Wiggs of Livingston Manor about the three driving forces behind the small grassroots organization to rescue animals in distress and find them good homes.
We do all the rescuing, she said. We're not a shelter, and we keep the animals in our own homes and try to find friends to foster some of the animals for us, so we run out of friends very quickly.
Wiggs said the countywide problem of castoff "pets" has many roots including people moving out of the area, finding out they "don't like them anymore," kids with allergies, landlords who won't allow pets and "summer people who leave them behind this is Sullivan County, and so many summer people come up here with cute little pets, and when they go home they leave 'em behind."
"We find a lot that have been dumped alongside the road," she added. "We rescue abandoned animals and pets people no longer want or can't keep, but we can't rescue 'em all," said Wiggs. "There's not enough money or time you try to help the ones that you can."
A few weeks ago, somebody stopped off for a couple of drinks at a bar and, instead of leaving a tip, dumped a couple of orange tabby kittens.
On that recent Saturday, Ben & Jerry were waiting to be adopted.
The Animal Welfare Alliance was asking a $25 adoption fee for the kitties, but that didn't even cover the alliance's out-of-pocket expenses: shots to prevent feline leukemia ($25), a dose of flea medication ($15), three wormings ($45) plus some cat food.
Wiggs' take on folks who dump pets along the road?
"They'll meet their maker someday," she said.
Henni Anker said that for every person who stepped up to the plate and adopted an animal, there are ten who want to "get rid of their animals."
"They think we're a free service, but we can't take the animals because we're not a shelter," she said. "They get irate when we ask them, 'Who's going to pay for this?"
Laura Miller of Liberty said the group plans to take animals into local nursing homes as pet therapy for the affection-starved residents.
Joan and Dale DeKamp of Liberty adopted "Bucky" several weeks ago from the Animal Welfare Alliance, joining four cats, two dogs and a rooster that "sort of adopted" them.
"The rooster adopted us," said Dale DeKamp. "It sits on my lap watching television.
"The Animal Welfare Alliance is a great organization," said Joan DeKamp. "They do so much for the animals it's all out of pocket, and whatever donations they can get, that's it."
For more information about the Animal Welfare Alliance, call 295-0716 or 439-5093.