VAN BUREN, Maine — For the past six years, Linda Ouellette has worked her hardest to keep stray or unwanted cats in the St. John Valley healthy and safe by overseeing Precious Paws Rescue and Adoption.
Now, however, funding for the Van Buren shelter she founded is diminishing, and Ouellette is appealing to the public to help continue safeguarding the animals.
Precious Paws Rescue and Adoption Inc. is a nonprofit organization and operates a no-kill and cage-free shelter and adoption service for homeless, abandoned and unwanted cats and kittens.
Volunteers operate the shelter, which provides care until suitable homes can be found for the cats.
As time passes and the economy worsens, money for the shelter’s operation is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.
“If we don’t receive some financial support for our mission, we will have to close the shelter,” Ouellette said Monday.
At Precious Paws, cats are held in a cage-free community room inside the shelter at 15 Main St.
Ouellette said Precious Paws is the only cat shelter serving the St. John Valley. It is not open to dogs because several area towns operate their own dog pounds. The rest of The County is served by Caribou Pet Rescue, Central Aroostook Humane Society in Presque Isle and Houlton Humane Society.
The shelter’s services are offered free to surrounding communities, and the facility is totally dependent on individual donors, businesses, grants and fundraisers.
“We have been dependent on donations for the past six years,” said Ouellette. “We have never had any employees and have relied upon volunteers. I can’t continue without being able to hire help.”
Ouellette said the shelter has held fundraisers to bring in cash, but even that is difficult to do without extra help.
“I have found myself doing way too many jobs now,” she said. “Fundraising is difficult to do when you also have to handle the direct care of these animals, write grants and perform other chores to keep the shelter going.”
Ouellete said that if she is forced to close the shelter, the organization will continue to exist under its nonprofit status to offer services to keep cats healthy, but closing the shelter is something she doesn’t really want to think about.
“I am appealing to the public for support,” she said, adding she hopes such support will tide the shelter over until a long-term solution can be implemented.
Donations may be made online by logging on to www.mypreciouspaws.org and clicking on “How to help.” For more information about donations, visit the organization at 15 Main St. in Van Buren or call 868-2828.