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COVID-19 not slowing down animal rescue efforts

T-R PHOTO BY ANNA SHEARER — ARL executive director Shelly Nodland discusses COVID-19’s effect on the organization on Thursday.

The pandemic has had a great effect on the Marshalltown Animal Rescue League (ARL) and Marshalltown Strong TNR (trap, neuter and return), but both are still caring for animals in the area.

Beginning July 9, the ARL will close to the public due to a staff member testing positive. Staff will still take in stray animals and care for them. Staff members will do a deep cleaning and will be tested.

Despite being closed to the public, the pet food pantry will still open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. According to ARL executive director Shelly Nodland, people can call when they are in the parking lot and the food will be delivered to their car by staff. There is still plenty of pet food available for those who have been financially affected by COVID-19.

The pandemic has also created a decrease in funds.

The ARL had to cancel the Whiskers, Wine and Something Divine fundraiser set for April 2, which usually raises $30,000 to $40,000. This annual event helps pay for food and care for the many animals the ARL houses.

T-R PHOTO BY ANNA SHEARER — Marshalltown Strong TNR founder Cara Jackson talks about the organization’s work on Thursday.

The Marshalltown Strong TNR also helps care for animals in the area.

Cara Jackson started the organization last year and they have treated 197 cats in that time, 47 this year.

Johnson said COVID-19 has affected the number they could treat in 2020.

The TNR’s goal is to control the population of stray cats and keep them healthy.

“Every female cat will have 2,000 offspring in 18 months,” Jackson said. “It keeps them healthier, they all have their vaccinations, they get a vet check and it keeps them from populating. It’s the only thing proven to work. Because if you remove a cat, three to seven will replace it.”

Jackson said they function with the help of volunteers to trap the cats. Traps can be loaned out for those who want to help.

“Marshall County has really taken each other’s hands and supported this program.” Jackson said.

Smaller towns are in the process of working on this.

Some people in the community have negative feelings about the feral cat populations and take it into their own hands. They will trap animals themselves and dump them out in the country, which is illegal.

The TNR is a legal, humane way to keep the feral cat population in check and make sure they are healthy.

The TNR and ARL are separate organizations but work together.

“That’s why it’s so important that both things exist. Because they’re both important, but they both do different things,” Nodland said.

Feral cats should not be taken to the ARL because they can only accept adoptable animals.

One way to help the ARL is to foster animals. Animals are usually fostered because of medical issues, behavioral issues, pregnancy or abandonment in infancy. When signing up, people are asked to fill out an application to make sure they can take good care of the animal. They can also tell their preferences for animals, whether that be kittens, pregnant dogs or something else.

While the foster program is important, healthy animals should be at the shelter so they are visible to potential adopters.

“If they’re happy and adoptable, the best place for them to be is here in the shelter,” Nodland said. “I know a lot of people don’t like to see animals in the kennels. But when people come to visit, then they’re here.”

She said when they can be seen, it is more likely they will be adopted quickly. When animals are not comfortable at the shelter, the ARL finds them a foster home.

Nodland said kittens should be left alone if found unattended. The mother is usually looking for food and will not return if a person is around.

The only exception is if the kittens look sickly or undernourished.

Donations are imperative for the ARL and TNR to continue what they are doing. Many people who had scheduled donations to these organizations became unemployed due to COVID-19 and are unable to contribute now.

Donations can be made to the TNR through VCA Animal Hospital, Animal Rescue League or the fundraisers on the TNR’s page. When giving TNR donations to the ARL, it is important to specify what organization they are for.

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Contact Anna Shearerat 641-753-6611 or ashearer@timesrepublican.com.

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