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Rude Ranch a haven for animals down on their luck

  • Story Highlights
  • Maryland couple operates Rude Ranch Animal Rescue out of their home
  • Bob and Katherine Rude currently care for 116 cats and six dogs
  • The pair is concerned about rising costs, falling donations and more pets in need
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By Alison Harding
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(CNN) -- Thanks to dedicated people like Bob and Katherine Rude, many homeless animals in Maryland will have a warm home this winter.

The Maryland couple currently cares for 116 cats and six dogs.

Bob and Katherine Rude run an animal shelter out of their home in Harwood, Maryland.

The Maryland couple currently cares for 116 cats and six dogs at Rude Ranch Animal Rescue, which they run out of their home in Harwood.

"We take in a lot of abused and neglected animals; animals that for whatever reason find themselves down on their luck," Katherine said.

It all started a decade ago when the couple found a group of cats in an alley behind a restaurant. They began working with other organizations to help place the cats, but quickly realized that they could do more. See how 100 cats live in one house »

"The more we got involved, and the more we found out about the world of animal rescue, the more we found out there was a lot more need. ...We felt we could fill a void," Katherine said.

A few years later, they bought a ranch house in Harwood and converted it into a shelter. Eventually, Bob and Katherine left their government jobs to work at the shelter full time. They now work seven days a week, morning through night, caring for their cats and dogs.

"Now we're doing adoptions, we're doing search and rescue, we're helping people out with spay and neuters, and we're helping out other animal controls with animals that they can't place, but think deserve a shot at a life," Katherine said.

The Rudes originally planned on keeping the shelter on one floor, and living in the rest of the house. But they quickly found that many of the cats required full-time care, so they expanded the shelter throughout their home.

"We still have a bedroom that's sort of ours, but we share it with a bunch of special-needs animals. We have anywhere from two or three dogs and 10 to 12 cats that share a bed with us," Bob says.

The extra space has allowed the Rudes to take in cats that most shelters cannot. Cats that require special attention or medical care -- those that have been abused or are suffering from feline immunodeficiency virus, for example -- all have a place at the ranch.

Katherine says this was one reason they started their own shelter. "It was for ... the ones that maybe don't have an alternative, don't have somewhere else to go. We figured they had as much of a chance at a life as someone else," she said.

Working with the animals is incredibly rewarding, Bob says, but expanding the shelter has also increased the number of mouths to feed.

"For the evening meal, we go through about 25 cans of cat food. For the whole day, we go through about 40-50. ...We go through about 100 pounds of dry food a week for the cats, [and] 10,000 pounds of cat litter a year," Bob said.

Even buying in bulk hasn't helped the Rudes escape the financial woes that have begun to plague most business owners. Katherine says that so far, they have been able to support themselves but are concerned about rising costs and falling donations.

At the same time, demand for the Rudes' help is increasing. Higher costs of food and supplies, as well as the foreclosure crisis, have affected people's ability to care for their pets, Katherine says.

"[Pet] adoptions have pretty much dropped off the face of the earth right now, but people are calling more and more to turn animals in," Bob said.


And as more people turn to them to care for their pets, the Rudes have no plans to change their tune. Since 1997, they have helped rescue or place more than 3,000 cats. Katherine estimates that they have helped make 2,500 to 2,700 adoptions to families or individuals.

"They're getting a home, they're going to have individual people doting on them, and that's what we want for all of the residents here," Katherine says.

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