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The ‘Last Hope’ for hungry cats

Wantagh animal rehabilitation agency collects truckload of food

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Last Hope Inc. Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation, in Wantagh, hosted a St. Patrick’s Day-theme food drive March 19-21 to bring some luck to Long Island’s cats.

The drive benefited the nonprofit Nobody Starves on Long Island, which provides assistance to low-income pet owners, feral cat feeders and animal welfare agencies. A pickup truck full of cat food was sent to Nobody Starves.

“Cat food is the hardest to keep, because everyone is feeding hundreds of ferals,” said Gary Kaufman, the founder of Nobody Starves on Long Island, which is based in Middle Island. “When [Last Hope] asked me if I needed help, I said, ‘Yeah, just cat food right now.’

“They did fantastic for me,” Kaufman added. “I appreciate it.”

Last Hope has hosted four pet food drives in the past year for Nobody Starves and Baxter’s Pet Food Pantry, operated by Long Island Cares.

“When [Kaufman’s] giving to people who are feeding cats, it’s a combination of people who are with their privately owned cats and are going through hard times, and the many people who are feral cat feeders,” Joanne Anderson, the outreach coordinator for Last Hope, explained. “[They] go through a tremendous amount of out-of-pocket money to feed the cats that they have.”

A Valentine’s Day-themed cat food drive in February was a success, Anderson said. Last Hope’s meet-and-greet room, where adopters meet their adoptees, was filled “one and a half times.” “It’s a great big room,” she added, “and it was completely full.”

The St. Patrick’s drive didn’t collect as much food as the previous one because they were only a month apart, but it was still a success, Anderson said.

The donated food, Kaufman said, bailed Nobody Starves on Long Island out of a dire situation. “It helps the people,” he said. “Because a lot of people put their animals first, and they feed their dog or cat before they feed themselves. So by helping them with food, it helps the people as well.”

And keeping people and their pets together, Anderson said, is a priority, because they need one another.

Last Hope typically would have hosted a number of in-person fundraisers over the past year to support the services it provides, but Anderson and fellow volunteers and staff had to think of alternatives because of the coronavirus pandemic. “Every way, shape and form of public fundraiser you would have people in attendance has been put on the back burner,” she said. “Everyone is trying to come up with creative ways to do online or word-of-mouth fundraisers, which generate money, but not as much money.”

Nonetheless, the facility managed to find ways to supplement the loss of fundraising money. Last Hope is one of Subaru of America’s 500 shelter partners, and Subaru has provided financial assistance throughout the pandemic.

“Even schools [were] doing fundraisers,” Anderson said. “It’s not going to help make up for your $10,000 Supermarket Bingo at the Levittown Hall, which held over 300 people . . . but it’s just nice that other avenues are trying to make up for it a little bit.”

While raising funds has been a challenge for Last Hope, there has been no shortage of residents looking to adopt cats and dogs. Because of the increase in the number of people working from home and seeking furry companions, Last Hope has seen an unprecedented demand for dogs, Anderson said. 

“It’s not just us — it’s a lot of places,” she said. “The Hempstead shelter asked us about a month ago if we had a husky, because they had a home for a husky. That is completely unheard of.”

Town animal shelters are no longer asking Last Hope to take in dogs because of the increase in the adoption rate. That in turn has allowed Last Hope to save dogs from southern states, where shelters are often more crowded, Anderson explained.

For the first time, Last Hope has a pile of pre-approved adoption applications ready before new dogs or cats even enter the building.

“We had a mother Yorkie and a father Chihuahua with four puppies come on this transport,” Anderson said. “Forget it — you just mention it, and they’re pretty much gone between the people who have already approved applications.”