by Diana Hockley
KRL believes in supporting animal rescue in its many forms in any way that we can. This week we are interviewing a very unique rescue in New York called Empty Cages Collective.
KRL: Rescuing animals is a labor of love and total dedication. What was the catalyst for the creation of the Empty Cages Collective and when did it come into being?
ECC: The Empty Cages Collective was formed in 2007 when a small group of likeminded individuals with a passion for helping and advocating for animals decided to form an organization to fill a void. At the beginning, most efforts were focused on TNR (trap-neuter-return), and helping out the feral cat colonies in the neighborhood, but given the many friendly strays in need of homes, the needs of other animals in New York City, and the fact that one of the founders had a background in, and license to, rehabilitate wildlife, ECC began to expand. Little by little, ECC evolved into what it is today. The core members have historically been vegan and involved in animal rights, so the natural transition into a one-of-a-kind, anti-speciesist rescue effortlessly happened.
KRL: How did you personally get involved?
ECC: (Kenia) I became a volunteer in 2009 when I moved to the area. I searched online for animal rescue groups to volunteer with and found one that really spoke to me – a grassroots group that was in desperate need of volunteers and which valued all animals.
(Natalia) I became involved in 2012 after meeting one of ECC’s coordinators at an animal rights protest. There was an urgent need for fosters and volunteers, and I was happy to get involved.
KRL: What sort of set-up do you have? Is it a private house, a shed, or a purpose-built complex?
ECC: We are primarily a foster-based rescue with foster homes throughout the NYC boroughs and a small recovery space in Brooklyn. We recently expanded to outside NYC, forming the Hudson Valley branch, but we all work as a unit, sometimes transferring animals between locations and foster homes based on need or space.
KRL: How many can you accommodate and what type of animals do you take in?
ECC: The numbers vary depending on the number of active foster homes and other factors. We take in cats, dogs, rabbits, rats, mice, guinea pigs, hamsters, reptiles, and birds, among others. We are the only NYC-based rescue to routinely offer assistance to pigeons, other urban wildlife, and to chickens. We find homes for the adoptable animals, and we provide temporary placement for others until permanent placement can be found in sanctuaries or with qualified rehabilitators, or until they can be released back to their natural habitat.
KRL: Are you a registered charity for rescue or tax exemption purposes?
ECC: ECC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization incorporated in the state of New York.
KRL: How does the local community regard your activities, and are they supportive in adoption and/or monetary terms?
ECC: The local community tends to be very supportive of our endeavors. People adopt animals from ECC and refer others to adopt or donate.
KRL: Do you have many volunteers and how do you recruit them?
ECC: Volunteers come and go due to life changes, so the numbers tend to vary. We do have a group of core volunteers who are in charge of day-to-day operations. We typically recruit volunteers at adoption events, through social media, and with ads posted on various sites.
KRL: Rescues depend on donations from the public; do you charge a small fee for your animals when they are adopted? And do you have PayPal and credit card facilities?
ECC: There is an adoption donation required to adopt an animal from ECC. The required donation minimum varies depending on the animal species, and it helps us recover some of the vetting expenses, allowing us to continue to help animals. More often than not, the adoption donation does not cover the extensive veterinary care that some of the animals require to be nursed back to health, or in the case of long-term fosters, the amount required to provide the day-to-day care.
As an all-volunteer animal rescue with no governmental contract, we rely entirely on the donations of generous individuals and foundations. We do have a PayPal account and can take credit card donations through our website.
KRL: What are the special challenges to rescuing rodents and/or other relatively unusual animals?
ECC: One challenge is in finding foster homes for them, as few people may be experienced or willing to take in these animals. Another, equally important, is debunking misconceptions that potential adopters may already have about how to properly care for these animals and what to expect. There is a lot of misinformation out there, perpetuated by pet stores, but we make sure to provide written information, as well as an orientation, to the approved adopter and family when they meet the animal that they are interested in. We make time to show people, first-hand, appropriate enclosures, instruct in proper handling, diet and exercise needs, and share medical files as well as recommendations as to what other vet offices might work for that particular species.
KRL: How many animals do you think you have saved so far?
ECC: Since its inception, ECC has helped a minimum of 3,000 animals.
KRL: Have you any fundraising or adoption events coming up, and would you like to give the details?
ECC: We do not have any special events coming up, but liking and following our Facebook and Instagram pages will give you a good idea of what is going on when.
KRL: Do local vet surgeries help in any way with discounted or free services?
ECC: We are lucky to have good relationships with a couple of veterinary clinics that provide discounted services, and in some cases courtesy exams, for the animals that we rescue.
KRL: Does the nearest ASPCA send rodents to you and do they help if they can with any animals or equipment?
ECC: Not typically. They have contacted us for help in the past, but we generally receive animals from the city shelter, Animal Care Centers, as well as from other rescue organizations. We also receive animals from other shelters in NY and, occasionally, from other states. Finally, we rescue directly from the streets, and from situations of neglect and abandonment that we are directly contacted about by the public.
KRL: Have you been involved in any hoarder or big rescues? If so can you tell us about it?
ECC: Over the years, ECC has been involved in numerous hoarder situations and big rescues involving different animals, some of which have been written about in other publications. For example, we were involved in a case in which dozens of cats were in desperate need in the Bronx after their guardian passed away; a case in which hundreds of domesticated rats were dumped in the streets of Manhattan; and cases in which guinea pigs or hamsters multiplied until their guardians became overwhelmed.
KRL: What are your most urgent needs right now and how can people help?
ECC: We are in desperate need of funds to provide daily and veterinary care to the animals that we rescue. Because ECC follows the No-Kill philosophy and values all animal lives, ECC consistently rescues ill or injured, but treatable, animals – the so-called “difficult” cases. These animals at a minimum need basic veterinary care, while some also require emergency care, extended hospital stays, or weeks of rehabilitation. Donations are fully tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law, and as an all-volunteer organization, all donations go directly to the animals in our care. People who are interested in donating can make either a one-time donation or become monthly donors by signing up on our website.
KRL: Is there anything you would like to add?
ECC: We are passionate about educating people on animal diversity, proper care of companion animals, and on Veganism. We invite people to get in touch with us for information, to live more compassionate lives, to get involved in their communities, and to pioneer the change they want to see.
KRL: What are your website URL and FB and Twitter details?
Our address and phone number are:
PO Box 220327
Brooklyn, NY 11222
Donation link: www.emptycagescollective.org/donate or
KRL: The mission statement for your rescue?
ECC: ECC aims to cultivate a culture where animals are recognized as fellow sentient beings worthy of respectful and compassionate treatment. Through advocacy, education, hands-on rescue, and assistance, the ECC envisions a world free of animal exploitation, abuse, and ecologically destructive behavior.
You can check out more animal rescue & pet related articles in our Pet Perspective section.