BROCTON "I'm very proud of Brocton for thinking about going in this direction," said Ann Bowers of the Lakeshore Humane Society, at the recent Village of Brocton board of trustees meeting.
She and fellow volunteer, Nancy Cranston attended the meeting to explain a trap/neuter/return program available to municipalities to help reduce feral cat populations.
"As representatives from the Dunkirk/Fredonia area, we serve people in a number of surrounding communities 24/7. We're an all-volunteer, not-for-profit organization, and I know we've been called here (Brocton) numerous times for feral cats," stated Bowers.
OBSERVER?Photo by Ann Belcher
Lakeshore Humane So-ciety volunteer Ann Bow-ers speaks to Brocton board members about a program to help decrease feral cat populations.
Feral cats, the women explained, are unsocialized cats who are forced to survive on their own, avoiding human contact, and who typically have been abandoned or accidentally lost. In contrast, stray cats are described as cats who have already been pets. Stray cats are tame, friendly and are able to adopted into homes easily. Feral kittens are able to be produced at alarming rates, explained Bowers, if the outdoor feral cat is not sterilized.
Citing reference information from Alley Cat Allies, the volunteers described the trap/neuter program as the only effective and humane way to control feral cat populations. By utilizing a humane trap to secure the cat, willing volunteers could bring the trap with the animal to a contracted veterinarian who would anesthetize the cat in its trap, then release it to be sterilized and vaccinated for rabies.
Once sterilized, the volunteer could return the cat to where it was trapped, keep watch it over it and provide food and water, and allow it to return to its surroundings.
Trustee J. Dale Abram questioned how it would be known whether a trapped feral cat has already been through this process.
"I'm glad you asked this, so that people can better understand. One of our volunteers asked me to make everyone aware, when a cat is sterilized through this program, a tiny notch of its ear is taken, to better assist the public in identifying whether it's spayed or neutered. This is significant for the public, who may not know whether they're seeing the same cats nearby, it will help them understand that if they have a notch missing out of their ear, they have already been sterilized," Bowers said.
According to Alley Cat Allies' statistics, an unsterilized feral cat by the age of seven years can yield more than 720,000 offspring.
"Within 60 days a cat can have another litter. It's enormous - it's really an incredible problem," stated Bowers.
She also reminds community residents that all though they may be unaware, animal control officers for municipalities are only permitted by law to handle dogs.
"I know a lot of people contact Clarence Grover in your area about cats, but he isn't permitted by law to work with cats, he can only handle dogs."
Mayor Dave Hazelton indicated his hope to see the program at work around Brocton, stating "I see this for next year's budget, and possibly we can find something in some other budget lines to work with."
Bowers and Cranston commended Hazelton and the board for their line of thinking, and also commended current Dunkirk Mayor, A.J. Dolce who advocated for the program in Dunkirk while he was still a councilman.
"Not only will you be helping the feral cat population to decrease drastically, but all of you can work along the great quote from Mahatma Gandhi: 'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.'"
For more information, the volunteers invite anyone to visit the Lakeshore Humane Society's newest facility at 431 East Chestnut Street, in Dunkirk. Or more information is available at www.lakeshorehumanesociety.org or www.alleycat.org.