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2011-09-21 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Feral cats reproduce everywhere. They don’t tiptoe around wealthy zip codes or gated condos. The proliferation of breeding ferals is a community based problem, requiring a community-based solution that is both humane and successful. Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) to settings where altered cats have permanent caregivers is the only effective way to manage homeless feline populations. On Long Island some towns have become proactive by instituting TNR programs available to their residents.

Municipal shelter budgets differ but weathering a continuous feral flood is a common concern, no matter where you live. The following outlines specifics of TNR initiatives offered by Babylon, Hempstead and Oyster Bay Town Shelters. These nearby Towns, like others, are working to develop creative ways to help both cats and the public:

BABYLON- 51 Lamar St. W. Babylon (631-643- 9270) - TNR programs began four years ago when Chris Elton became shelter director. The Town holds TNR 101 workshops for novice trappers with assistance from Second Chance, Animal Lovers League and Last Hope, plus lends out humane traps, heavy duty Tomahawks to residents for a $60 fully refundable deposit. Chris built a special drop trap for cats that “play hard to get.” He lends that out with a tutorial, beginning with his trademark advice: “Never trap without a plan.” Despite his warning, I still caught a mother cat on Labor Day when every vet was closed. Thanks to TNR 101, I knew what to do.

Babylon received a state grant so the first set of spay/ neuter certificates were free to residents. Presently there are $35 vouchers for trapped cats which can be used at Aldrich or Dr. Senk in Farmingdale by appointment, or East Islip Veterinary Group with drop off every weekday except Thursday by 9:30 a.m. Cats get a rabies shot and mandatory ear tip (to ID them as altered from a distance). The town absorbs extra fees for pregnant cats. Vouchers are available at the shelter.

Chris strives to be a Kat Kissinger, intervening in feral “cat fights.” Four apartment complexes where previously landlords, tenants and feeders clashed now reached détente. The landlord is not only allowing TNR but at times providing funds and areas for postspay recovery. Babylon also oversees an atheistically pleasing managed cat colony on town-owned property that for decades had been a feline fiasco. (Notice I didn’t disclose where this is.) Local Girl Scouts have built and decorated winter shelters for the cats.

HEMPSTEAD- 3320 Beltagh Ave. Wantagh( 516-785-5220 ext.4630) - The Town’s intro to TNR included two mass TNR clinics held as joint ventures with Last Hope. After that, Hempstead began a comprehensive free TNR program for residents which will expand as of Oct. 1. Assistant director Cindy Iacopella stated: “Public education is essential to success. People need to learn proper procedures like covering the trap to calm cats.” The Town acquired a FEMA trailer refurbished as a post-surgical recovery area that is easy to hose down and disinfect. Females need more recoup time than males. Soon Hempstead plans to lend traps and dividers for a deposit and to open a feral food bank for feeders.

After attending a mandatory workshop at the shelter for TNR certification, residents can bring trapped ferals to the shelter by appointment by 8 a.m. for free spay/neuter which includes ear tip, FVRCP and rabies shots, as well as flea treatment by the shelter’s vet. The public can sign up for the Nov. 5 workshop run by Neighborhood Cats of NYC so they will be eligible for this service.

For those caretakers who cannot trap, the Town has a trapper on staff but this means a longer wait. Presently there are about 150 on the list because of limited slots. The Town will work with large cat colonies on a case by case basis. Hempstead’s plan is to spay/neuter 20 cats a day, five days a week. A grant from PETCO will help fund the goal.

OYSTER BAY-

150 Miller Pl. Syoss et-(516-677-5784)

-Oyster Bay Shelter opened a spay/neuter trailer clinic for ferals on their property last year. The free surgeries are done there or at the shelter vet’s nearby hospital. Previously, the Town contracted with several humane groups to do feral trapping, transport and recovery for their residents, but presently all “legwork” is done by All About dashingdansplumbing.com Spay Neuter, a Massapequa based non-profit.

Danny Pearl, the shelter director, explained: “After the resident calls, we verify the location and whether the person is a caretaker. All About Spay Neuter touches base with them, traps the cats, brings them to the shelter trailer, transports them to recovery site, and then back to the caregiver for release, all at no charge to the tax payer. Our staff is helping with trapping too.” The Town tries to do calls in order while localizing areas with many cats. Ear-tipping is mandatory; cats are vaccinated. Again there is a back log, so it is best to get on the list ASAP. Danny estimates that the Oyster Bay program is spay/ neutering between 90-100 cats a month; and over 1200 ferals have been altered in the last 18 months.

Some TNR common denominators: Drop off and pick the same day, dissolvable stitches, removal of young kittens and sociable cats into adoption programs, Shelter Directors who care about animal welfare and are determined to keep chipping away at this monumental cat overpopulation problem.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (contact info above): Now shifting gears to dogs, our poster pups have real tales of woe. “Aggie” #94383 a matted Wheaten mix found dragging her pink leash was rescued by a kind feral feeder at Oak Beach. Maybe Aggie is not a mix; grooming will reveal the truth below the tangles. She is understandably frightened, but such a sweet dog.

“Mae” #94298 rose above a horrific start in life. Discarded in a plastic bag found outside a local business, this Pit mix pup was bald and bloody from a severe case of demodectic mange, a treatable skin condition often the result of neglect. With TLC she blossomed into Ms. Congeniality and became the shelter’s reliable dog tester dog. Mae’s happy ending will be complete once she finds a loving home.

Males: “JJ”- white Poodle, “Reggie”-scruffy Terrier; Doxie/Min Pin; Fenster- Boxer mix; “Seabo” tuxedo cat.

Females: “Sabrina”-Lhasa; “Mona Lisa”-Jack Russell/Pit; “Pristine & Dusty”- white cats.

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