Protector of Animals: A labor of love for all volunteers
By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Fri., Jul. 12, 2013
Retired for almost 11 years, Manny Silvia doesn’t need to work anymore – but he still does. Silva spends close to seven days a week at the Protector of Animals (POA) cat facility on Main Street in East Hartford, putting in three- to four-hour shifts each day he’s there. And he does it all for the love of animals.
“Personally I really enjoy working with the cats and animals,” said Silvia, who’s been volunteering with POA for going on eight years now. “I feel that I’m giving something back.”
Silvia is just one of more than 200 volunteers who keep the POA operating. There is just one person on the payroll at POA, and that is John Thomas, the director of shelter operations.
“Everybody who’s here, they’re all volunteers, but they all show up when they are supposed to show up, they do what they have to do and they do it because they are committed to the animals,” said Thomas.
POA was founded in 1975 with the mission to rescue abandoned, abused and stray cats and dogs. POA is a nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter and rescue funded by donations and corporate partners such as PetSmart and Sephora at Evergreen Walk.
POA operates three rescue facilities in the greater Hartford area. There is the cat shelter in East Hartford and two dog facilities – one in Wethersfield and one in East Hampton. The cat facility can handle 60 cats at capacity, while the two dog shelters can house around 18 dogs between both sites. There are also foster families that care for animals while they are waiting to be adopted.
Thomas said the majority of the cats that come to the shelter are strays, while the rest are personal surrenders or have been abandoned. Each cat is housed in a modern cat condo and given plenty of attention and free-play time.
“One thing we try to do here is we don’t keep the animals caged constantly,” said Silvia. “We try to rotate and keep at least half of the cats out every day, and that’s from morning until the next morning, so that they socialize better; they seem to be a lot calmer and it seems to have worked out real well.”
The dogs arrive at POA under different circumstances. Thomas said most of the dogs have maxed out their time limit at the local dog pounds, so the animal control officers will call the POA and see if POA can take the dog.
Ashley Price, who volunteers at the POA dog facilities, said when the animal control officers call with a dog that has reached its time limit at the local pound, the POA will evaluate the dog first to see if they think it’s adoptable before taking it to one of their facilities.
“Knowing that you can change the trajectory of a dog’s years is a really powerful thing,” said Price.
And what’s even more rewarding for Price is when she can place a dog with a new family. “The most significant part of what I do is seeing how happy families are and the dog is once they’re settled in at home,” said Price. “It’s the most gratifying feeling knowing that not only did you save a dog’s life, but you put it in the care of somebody that loves it unconditionally like it deserved to be loved from the beginning.”
The cat facility at 144 Main St., in East Hartford, is open from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday or by appointment for adoptions. They are also open every third Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.poainc.org.