John Debacker helps a suburban possum.

John Debacker, a 27-year-old Bellmore native, has been saving animals for as long as he can remember. And thankfully, for the animals of Long Island who need his help, he has turned his passion into a full-time commitment.  

He began volunteering at several shelters and rescue organizations in his early 20s, cleaning cages and socializing animals in need of a forever home. Since then, John has become widely known throughout LI as the rescuer to call when an animal needs help. 

“I’ve always loved animals, and about five years ago a neighbor moved and left four cats behind,” he says. “Through the use of online resources, I was able to find an experienced trapper to help bring the cats to a rescue for care and adoption.”

From suburban possums to geese on local parkways, Debacker has rescued a wide variety of animals in frightening situations. For anyone who finds a wild animal in distress and can’t find a rescuer like Debacker, he suggests contacting a professional wildlife rehabber or general veterinarian hospital for guidance. 

“There is so much about the care of wildlife that most people are unfamiliar with,” he says. “For example, a deceased possum could have live babies in her pouch that can survive for days even after the mother dies.”

For people who wish to help the Island’s cat overpopulation, Debacker recommends joining social media groups such as Facebook’s Long Island Stray and Feral Sharing Community, and looking into shelters and rescues that offer spay and neuter vouchers, because rescue efforts can be costly. 

You can’t miss Debacker in his newly purchased rescue van, which holds approximately 30 cages at any given time.  

“Forty-six cats is the record for the most cats I’ve TNR’d (trapped, neutered, returned) at one time,” he says. 

Feral cats are returned to their colony, while friendly cats get placed in homes through local rescues or animal shelters. Injured rescue animals can recover in Debacker’s custom-built insulated shed, which can hold up to 30 traps and even a refrigerator for food and medication.  

“All of these lifesaving tools were made possible by donors,” says Debacker. 

Debacker does not accept payment for his services and relies solely on donations to fund his efforts. To assist him with his lifesaving work, you can make a donation at PayPal at johnd7293@gmail.com. He can be reached on Facebook.

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