Happy Tails Cat Sanctuary in Chesterland is in desperate need of donations.

Happy Tails Cat Sanctuary in Chesterland is in desperate need of donations.

Currently celebrating 40 years of their non-profit, the sanctuary is not taking in any new felines becuase of their current financial stressors.

The organization is a no-kill shelter that takes in elderly and “special needs” cats. Some of whom are adaptable, and others who will live out their lives at the sanctuary explains Sanctuary President Tom Vasko.

Among these “special needs” felines are cats with diabetes, limited eyesight, and FIV, all of which require extra veterinary care.

FIV is an immune deficiency virus that can be easily spread between cats.

Certain shelters euthanize cats who test positive for FIV and often won’t accept them to their shelters.

However, the sanctuary keeps FIV-positive cats in separate rooms and provides them with the medical care they need to live a comfortable life.

FIV-positive cats live normal life spans if they are provided with good care and proper nutrition, explains Tom Vasko. 

The organization will be hosting a celebration of their 40 years rescuing cats on April 9th to try and fundraise for donations and to expand their volunteer crew.

The organization has held fundraisers at least once a year since 2005. 

“Our benefits and fundraisers don’t bring in nearly the amount of money that larger county shelters raise at their events,” said volunteer Doreen Lazarus. “No one at Happy Tails gets paid a salary, and Cats’ Inn owner Lynn Tezak charges us a greatly reduced rate for boarding Happy Tails cats.” 

The non-profit was formed by Jeanne Bones, who many volunteers call “an incredible, cat-loving lady.”

Bones opened Happy Tails Cat Sanctuary in 1982 after she noticed many stray cats around her area in need.

Vasko explained how Bones wanted to help stary struggling cats and decided that her home would be the perfect place to open a shelter.

What began as just a dream became a wonderful reality as she began to rescue starts.”

said Vice President of the board Kathy Vasko.

Soon after opening, the shelter experienced an influx of people bringing cats to Bones, or just leaving them on her property.

Bones decided to build ‘cat-friendly’ buildings on the serval acres of land on her property.

Tom Vasko explains how Bones had worked tirelessly in her endeavors to support the cats and as a result, word got out about the organization, and people started reaching out to volunteer.

“A cadre of volunteers formed to help Bones with the monumental task of running the Sanctuary which is “no-kill” and a “non-profit”,” said Kathy Vasko.

Happy Tails Cat Sanctuary was officially named and recognized as a non-profit charitable organization in 2005.

The many successes that the non-profit has experienced have not gone without its hardships.

In 2010, Happy Tails experienced a fire due to a faulty electrical connection that destroyed Bones’ home. Three cats also passed away as a result of smoke inhalation.

Even after the devastating fire that took Bones home, her spirit was never broken, explains Tom Vasko. 

“She built back better, Bones would not be defeated,” said Tom Vasko. “She continued to run Happy Tails, and any money she received was put into sustaining the organization.”

Bones passed away on Thanksgiving Day in 2015, however, her legacy lived on through her determined volunteers and current Sanctuary President.

“We have been blessed with dedicated volunteers with the perseverance, just like Jeanne Bones had, to keep going even when adversity strikes.”

said Lazarus.

Lazarus describes the years following Bone’s passing that the crew of volunteers was very passionate to continue her work.

“For the next few years, with the exception of only one day due to a fierce winter storm, at least one volunteer would come to the sanctuary every day to give fresh food and water to the cats, scoop litter boxes, sweep and vacuum the floors and give medicine if needed,” said Lazarus.

The shelter informally partners with other smaller and independent animal rescue groups. Which they have been able to adopt out more cats by collaborating with these shelters. 

“Our philosophy, as is the same philosophy of the groups we sometimes partner with,” said Lazarus. “Which is that we should work together rather than competing against each other.”

After Bones’ family sold her property that housed the organization some of the cats were relocated to the Cats’ Inn on Kinsman Road. While the majority of the cats were placed into foster homes. 

“Although we have been blessed with having foster homes, we always would like to find even more of them,” said Lazarus. “Even though the sanctuary is well set up for the cats’ comfort, good foster parents can provide more personal attention in a home environment.”

To find out more information about the Happy Tails 40th Anniversary event and how to get involved in the organization, please visit their website.

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