Susan Whittred, Director and Veterinarian at Patricia H. Ladew Foundation, Inc., has been with the Foundation for 13 years. Located in Oyster Bay, New York, the Ladew Foundation is a 501(c)3 cat sanctuary and their mission is: Reducing animal suffering by providing housing for homeless cats, sterilizing stray and feral cats to reduce overpopulation and by providing necessary medical treatment for unowned cats.
What makes the sanctuary unique from other rescues/shelters is that the Ladew cats live in a home-like atmosphere with outdoor runs so that they have a nice place to wait while they are in between homes. It’s run by a veterinarian, so the group is able to cater to medical needs as they arise.
A conversation with Susan
How did the sanctuary come about?
It was founded in 1975 by Pat Ladew, who passed away in 2002. She bought the house and hired two people to take care of the cats. It was a big deal back then, the papers got wind of her buying the house and there were headlines like “heiress buys mansion for cats.” Pat loved it – of course it wasn’t true – it’s far from a mansion! Over the years they adopted out a lot of cats, but then it fell into disarray. When I took over in 2003, we did a lot of work to clean it up and then in 2010 started a complete renovation and built a clinic on premises.
Why did you join the sanctuary?
Pat Ladew was a friend of mine. She wanted to leave it to someone who would keep it mostly cage free. The only time cats are caged (and we have lovely big state-of-the-art cages) is when they first come in, until they are cleared of communicable disease, and/or if they are sick and need temporary caging.
What region do you cover?
We take from shelters associated with the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, mostly from Animal Care Centers. When we have room, we go there and save as many as we can. We do not take in from the public.
Do you also have foster homes – or are all cats at the sanctuary?
We don’t use foster homes at the moment, but we are open to it.
Approximately how many cats do you adopt out?
Last year we adopted out 110.
Are some cats permanent residents at the sanctuary?
Yes, for reasons of health or temperament.
What is the hardest part about running the sanctuary?
Probably not being able to help all that need help. We can only take in so many.
What is the best part about running the sanctuary?
Placing cats into loving homes and providing medical care to those that we can help. We also offer surviving pet care. For a fee, owners can rest assured that their cats will be taken care of in a home-like environment, enriched with medical care, entertainment and love.
What is the biggest difference between your sanctuary and a typical cat rescue group?
I think most of the rescue groups are awesome in what they do with their resources. I guess one of the differences is having a brick and mortar facility and an on-site staff veterinarian.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting a rescue or sanctuary?
Don’t get overwhelmed – and recognize your limits. Do not overcrowd and jeopardize the health of animals in your care.
Do you have any sponsors?
Maddie’s Fund has been awesome and has given us several grants. We were eligible through the Mayor’s Alliance of NYC’s Animals.
Do you hold fundraising events?
We haven’t really held any fundraising events – we would like to. I think we need some volunteers to help us organize – we are spread thin at the moment!
Do you hold adoption events?
We have done quite a few adoption events with the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. Last year we participated in WNBC’s Clear the Shelters, which we did at our facility and had a great turnout.
Do you find that it’s hard to come by volunteers?
Yes, we are always looking for volunteers. We find people will come once or twice. It is difficult to find volunteers who we can rely on. We do have a few great ones though.
Is there a rescued cat that stands out in your mind?
There are lots! Recently, Teddy Roosevelt was a good one. One day, not long ago, I received a text from Lynn Manno (our Shelter Manager) about a kitty she spotted outside with a prolapsed rectum. She sent this picture with “can you fix this?” I said yes and Lynn set out to trap him. It took three days but she finally rescued him. When he arrived, he was tested for FELV/FIV and found to be FIV positive. He was also not feral in the least – a real sweetheart! His first surgery broke down (we think because he was in such bad shape), so we performed a temporary fix until he was a little healthier. The second one worked like a charm! Through our friends at the Mayor’s Alliance, Teddy Roosevelt is now living in the city and treated in a presidential manner as he should be!
In your experience, what has been the best way to collect donations for your organization?
Social media has been great. Our New Hope Program (which allows us to rescue animals from Animal Care and Control) does pretty well through folks wanting to save cats online. We’ve gotten donations in from as far as Italy!
How can people donate to your rescue?
There are several ways to donate to our shelter on our website. They can donate to the New Hope Program, which helps us rescue more cats from kill shelters; they can donate to the Have-A-Heart Program, which helps us pay for echocardiograms for cats with heart murmurs; they can sponsor a cat (and receive a letter from the cat they sponsor – gift sponsorships are also popular) or they can mail in a check.
Anything else we should know about the sanctuary?
We are firmly against declawing.
Have you ever adopted one of the cats that came through the sanctuary?
Yes, I have Willy (with one eye). I adopted her in 2003. She was in the first litter of kittens that came in when I started.
Do you have any pets at home?
What’s a fun fact about yourself?
I was in the music business for 15 years, working at Chrysalis Records, Imago Records and a very brief stint at Columbia in Los Angeles. Still friends with many of the folks at both Chrysalis and Imago and it turns out that so many of them are animal lovers – probably why we got along so well in the first place!
Thank you to Susan for sharing the Ladew Foundation with us. The sanctuary looks like an amazing place and such a wonderful temporary and permanent home to the kitties! You can connect with the sanctuary at via their website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you would like to donate, you can learn more at their website. They also have an Amazon Wish List.
What do you think? Have you ever seen such a beautiful place for cats to live while waiting for their forever home?