Leading Lady: Advocating for Animals with Carol Borrelli and Cinagro Farm
Carol Borrelli is a Jill-of-All-Trades—a realtor, a paralegal and notary, a writer of a cookbook and for Examiner.com, and a gardener and grower of organic herbs. Carol’s greatest passion, however, lies with our animal companions. A lifelong friend to animals, Carol says she has been sympathetic to their treatment since her childhood. “I was the kid who always brought something home to ‘save it’—birds, squirrels, cats, and dogs,” Carol told Teen Voices editorial intern Kate Szumita. Carol now runs Cinagro Farm Rescue Services, a non-profit organization dedicated saving abandoned animals—not only cats and dogs, but pigs and horses too—from the unnecessary fate of euthanasia. They rely heavily on social media. Read on to get the full scoop on Borrelli and Cinagro Farm, and to learn more about what you can do to ease the process of rescuing at-risk animals.
Teen Voices (TV): What is the primary focus of Cinagro Farm Rescue Services?
Carol Borrelli (CB): Our mission is to save abandoned, abused, neglected, and homeless animals with the hope of not only making a difference in the animals' lives, but also in the lives of the families and individuals that they will touch. Most rescue animals rescue us in the process of rescuing them. We advocate humane consumption, humane activities, respect and kindness toward all creatures, great and small. Animals ask for so little and give so much in return. We vehemently act on their behalf as their voice.
TV: What is a “rescue animal”? What’s the rescue process like? Do you use social networking as a “call to action” with local organizations?
CB: A rescue animal is a dog or cat, sometimes even a horse, bird, or pig, that has been dumped by its owners at a county shelter, or picked up by animal control. A high percentage of the animals at county shelters are euthanized. Rescue animals are those that have been taken out of the shelters and re-homed into loving environments.
Nearly 100% of our rescue’s work is done on-line through Facebook. It is an amazing tool. Most of what we do today could never have been accomplished 20 years ago. We have nationwide contacts and friends on Facebook and we work together toward the same goal: saving animals from euthanasia.
TV: If someone wants to rescue an animal from being put to sleep by adopting it, is the process different, especially if they live far away from the shelter? How does one find a local rescue organization to work with?
CB: If anyone would like to rescue an animal, a quick trip to your local shelter will show you lots of very deserving and loving animals just waiting for a kind person and a forever home. Most shelters are filled to capacity and it is very important to adopt from these places rather than pet stores, because at pet stores, most of the animals come from puppy mills [commercial dog breeding facilities that are focused on profit rather than animal welfare]. Puppy mills or farms are very inhumane and should be shut down and made illegal nationwide.
We prefer local adopters, but in order to save a pet and give them a great loving home, we do work with out-of-state adopters after a screening process. If someone lives far away from the shelter, Cinagro Farm Rescue Services is able to arrange transportation nationwide through a huge network of volunteers. Although we prefer to fly a pet home, ground transportation is also an option; but it is much harder on volunteers and the pet.
People can find local rescues by doing a web search or checking on Facebook, asking questions of vets, calling shelters, etc.
TV: Cinagro offers a “foster to adopt” program. What does this mean?
CB: Cinagro Farm Rescue Services, Inc. is a rescue group. This means we don’t have a facility to house unwanted animals. In order to place the pet into loving homes we utilize a host of “fosters” who take the animal into their homes [while we look for a “forever home”]. If you love pets, it is a gift of love to foster a homeless pet with the help of a rescue. Aside from the regular day-to-day care, the responsibilities of a foster may include basic training (housetraining, walking on a leash, sit, stay, down); behavior modification to correct any problems like jumping, barking, destructive chewing; socialization and temperament evaluation to determine if the dog is good with children, adults, and other animals such as dogs and cats; medical care (dispensing medication, taking the dog to vet appointments) and of course, plenty of play time and snuggling.
Fostering may seem like a formidable task, but it is a great way to make a difference. Fostering allows more animals to be helped as it frees up space in shelters, allowing more pets a chance to find a home. Fostering also gives an animal the necessary tools and social skills to live in a new home. The foster volunteer gets to spend time with a special pet; the pet gets a break from kennel life and a second chance at becoming a cherished pet. The new owners get a pet that is better adapted to home life, and therefore has a better chance of remaining in the new home permanently. It is a win-win situation.
TV: What are the benefits of adopting a shelter animal?
CB: The benefits are huge! Most pets have had their lives turned upside down when they end up in a shelter. They don’t understand what has happened to them. Most had homes and people to call their own. Now, they are behind bars, scared, and lonely. They always are so grateful for everything—a warm bed, food, affection—basic things that should be a given when owning a pet. There are so many great pets in shelters and many never make it out. It will do your soul a world of good to adopt a shelter animal. That is what I mean when I say, “they rescue us in the act of rescuing them.” To see an animal grow and regain health and confidence and soak up all the love that you give them is simply an amazing experience. It is very important to only adopt a pet if you can give it your all and commit to it 100%. It doesn’t matter what comes your way. If you had a child, you wouldn’t dump it at a shelter because you had to move, or leave it on the side of the road because you didn’t feel like taking the time to train it. It should be the same for your animal.
TV: What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work? What’s the most difficult?
CB: The most rewarding part is seeing the “after” photos of pets in their new homes: happy, healthy, and sparkling. They DO sparkle when they are loved!
The most difficult is hearing about how many dogs were euthanized because no one came for them. It is devastating.
TV: How do animals end up in shelters? What’s a typical story?
CB: I’ve heard it all, with the excuses. They range from “allergies” to “I have a new boyfriend” and everything in between.
The housing crisis hasn’t helped pets at all; many get abandoned at foreclosed homes, shoved out the back door when people move, or taken to shelters when they can’t find a rental home that will allow pets.
Frankly, pets end up in shelters because of irresponsible, inconsiderate, and uncaring owners. Most people are lazy; they get a dog because he’s cute, then don’t feel like training the animal and get rid of him when he acts out. This rejection is devastating to a pet. As I mentioned, always remember that adopting a pet is a serious responsibility that requires serious commitment. Pets depend on us and it is up to us to teach them what we expect. All that takes is time, consistency, and patience, but most of all, love. You will end up with the best friend you have ever had.
TV: Is there variety in the quality of care offered at different shelters? What is a “no-kill” shelter?
CB: Yes, some shelters are better than others; it all depends on politics, unfortunately. A lot of county shelters don’t have the funding to provide vet care, etc., upon intake of animals.
A no-kill shelter is just that—they do not euthanize animals due to issues with space. Most won’t take new animals unless there is room. The Humane Society is a good example, as is Best Friends Sanctuary in Utah. Most will euthanize, however, if the animal is very sick and suffering and will have no further quality of life. It’s the humane thing to do.
TV: How many animals are put to sleep each year? How can we as a society prevent this from happening?
CB: Each year, nationwide, hundreds of thousands of companion animals are euthanized in shelters. This is directly the result of irresponsible humans. Whenever you make the commitment to adopt a pet, the pet should be neutered or spayed to insure that they will not contribute to the overpopulation. It also makes for a happier and healthier pet. You also need to commit to raising the animal and being their guardian for the remainder of its life. If you have to move, this isn’t an excuse to abandon your pet. When you commit to adopting a pet, you must always have an alternate plan to insure that they are cared for if you have to travel, go on vacation, get deployed, and so on. Your pet depends on you much like a child would. You are their world; be sure to make them yours.
TV: What are some ways that our teen readers can help animals in need?
CB: Volunteer at your local shelters, help comfort sad and scared pets by taking them for walks on shelter properties (if the shelter will allow), help network them on Facebook to attract loving adopters, or do a fundraiser for local rescues—they can’t do what they do without funds. If you’re old enough to drive, ask if you can help with transports [driving animals from the shelter where they were adopted to their foster or forever homes]. That is huge for rescues. You might even assist fosters with responsibilities like vet visits or dog walking. There’s so much you can do to help, and every little positive action allows more pets to be rescued.
For more information, visit Cinagro Farm’s website at www.cinagrofarm.com, “like” Cinagro Farm Rescue Services’ Facebook page, and read Carol’s work as the Orlando, Florida Animal Advocacy Examiner on Examiner.com.
Editor’s Note: This summer, in the midst of the heartache of closing down Teen Voices, I decided that if I couldn’t save Teen Voices, I could at least save an animal. So, with the help of Carol Borrelli and Cinagro Farm, I adopted my first dog. My daughter Jenni named her Goldie, and she’s been a dream come true: in just three weeks, she’s brought me lots of joy, comfort, fun, companionship, and introduction to neighbors I didn’t know yet! So if you are thinking of adopting a pet or getting involved in doing volunteer work with animals, I urge you to check it out! You’ll not only meet lots of cool animals, but some amazingly caring, dedicated people as well.
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