A Chicago-area woman who often found comfort in animals when she didn’t fit in as a child is now rescuing and finding homes for many of the deaf and disabled animals in the area. For Amber Kay, this is more than paying back a debt to the pets in her home and neighborhood that loved her unconditionally; it’s a personal mission.
Kay initially started networking with other people that adopted and rescued deaf animals after she adopted a deaf pit bull/boxer mix. What she found out from her fellow rescuers was that deaf animals were among the first in shelters and to be euthanized because there were many misconceptions about deaf animals – they are not trainable, bite too much and won’t find a home.
“I found it offensive because I’m deaf, my parents are deaf, as well as my younger sister,” says Kay. “When I founded Fur Angels Animal Sanctuary, I first focused on deaf animals and we’ve since expanded to other special need dogs and cats such as vision impaired, seizure prone and those with missing limbs. We also help dogs that have no special needs as well. We have expanded into caged pets (small animals such as ferrets, hamsters, birds, hedgehogs, sugar gliders) and reptiles.”
Fostering to a forever home
The animals rescued by Fur Angels all live in foster homes instead of a crowded shelter in a cage. This gives volunteers time to housebreak the animals, train them with obedience signals or sign language for dogs and to really get to know each animal. Because these animals have very special needs, foster families really get a feel for the type of home that would be the best fit. At Fur Angels, it’s not about getting the adoption numbers up each year, it’s more about finding the right homes for animals where they will be loved and cared for their whole lives.
“Because deaf dogs are more attuned to you than non-deaf dogs, they adapt much better than many people would imagine,” says Kay. “They rely on their sight more than anything and are constantly watching you to make sure they are not missing out on anything. Your body language already communicates a lot of information. Dogs and animals communicate 90 percent through body language and 10 percent verbally. You can get a dog’s attention through hand signals or by tapping the floor because they are sensitive to vibrations like deaf people are. Using flashlights from a distance also works.”
All of the animals taken in by Fur Angels have been treated for existing medical conditions and they are altered and fully vetted before they are put up for adoption. To adopt through the organization, you must first fill out an application and provide a vet reference. During a home visit, the rescue will assess if the home is safe and appropriate for the animal under consideration for adoption. All family members will also be interviewed to see if they are on board when it comes to adopting a special needs pet.
The process then varies depending on the needs of the animal. Because some animals have vision issues, a fenced-in yard is ideal. Because others have physical disabilities and may have issues with stairs, they may need to go to a home without them. Some dogs need seizure medicine and others may need annual eye exams or other specialized treatments to handle a variety of other issues. There system works because to date not a single animal has been returned due to his or her disability.
“The best part of rescuing for us is simply this – we are making a difference in these animals’ lives, finding them their forever homes,” adds Kay. “We have at least 30 foster homes and volunteers that are part of this organization and we’re always looking for great foster homes to help us help more animals in need.”
Fur Angels pulls animals from open admission shelters and is a no-kill shelter and works with some owners who must relinquish their special needs pet. Learn more about Fur Angels Animal Sanctuary online, on Facebook, how to donate and also you may sponsor an animal.
Petfinder has designated September 17 – 25 as “Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week” to help promote the many animals that have a hard time finding a home due to their color, age, illness or other factors. I’ll also use this week to highlight some programs developed by shelters and rescues to help these animals find a home and to shed some light on this overlooked group – like the deaf animals and those with other disabilities taken in by Fur Angels Animal Sanctuary.
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