2008-03-26 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets . .

by Joanne Anderson

"A First for Ferals" in Babylon Town: On Saturday April 5th, the Town of Babylon will launch a free spay/neuter voucher distribution to assist in TNR (Trap/Neuter/Release) efforts of feral cats. The service is available exclusively to Town residents. This innovative program is possible thanks to a joint effort between the town and Assemblyman Bob Sweeney (who secured the state grant). Last Hope Animal Rescue, Inc. will also provide crucial support for this TNR initiative, assisting with the initial training and administrative tasks.

How the voucher system works: Vouchers: On April 5th town residents can come to Town Hall Annex at Phelps Lane, North Babylon from 11 am to 1 pm and collect up to 5 vouchers for each address, valid from April 7th through mid July (or sooner if demand uses all

POLICE BLOTTER the funding). Each spay/neuter voucher is good

for 1 cat. There will be between 400-500 vouchers released. The Town staff/Last Hope volunteers will also instruct residents in the use of humane traps, follow up cat care, and the procedures for borrowing a trap.

The Town expects the vouchers to be claimed quickly. After April 5th, residents can call the shelter at 643-9270 to see if any certificates remain.

Appointment: The resident will then be responsible to call Brentwood/Islip Animal Hospital (the only clinic where the voucher can be redeemed) to schedule a spay/neuter appointment for each voucher. Only feral cats in traps will be accepted. Since ferals are so hard to handle, often the sex of the cat remains undetermined until anesthetized.

Borrowing Traps: The shelter has a limited supply of new humane traps to lend to residents for a period up to 2 weeks. A cash deposit of $60 per trap is required. All money will be refunded when the trap is returned on time. The shelter/ Last Hope will give advice but will not be trapping the cats for residents.

Veterinary Procedure: The resident brings the cat(s) in the trap to the hospital on the scheduled day. Because there are various schools of thought about testing ferals for FeLV/FIV, caretakers will have a choice with asymptomatic cats. They can opt not to test and proceed with the surgery; or combo blood test first at no charge. However, any cat that tests positive for feline leukemia (FeLV) or feline immune deficiency disease (FIV) will not be sterilized, but instead will be humanely euthanized while still sedated. Spayed and neutered ferals will receive a rabies vaccine and be left ear notched for easy "castrated ID". (Any additional services requested like distemper shots or flea control will be at the resident's expense.) The resident will pick up the cat later the same day, and follow recovery and re-release procedures.

What's Needed: A current NYS driver's license with a Town of Babylon address. Please note- 5 vouchers are available for each address, not each resident.

Comments from the "Pets" Peanut Gallery: I commend Babylon Shelter director Chris Elton and the Town for organizing this needed TNR pilot to help manage our tremendous feral overpopulation. With cooperative efforts of the public, vets, rescue groups, shelters, and municipal officials, we will be able to make significant progress in curtailing the cat surplus and suffering.

Since Babylon's voucher procedures are new, unforeseen rough spots will have to be ironed out as they unfold. For eg., synchronizing trapping with appointments is easier said than done. I am hoping for some flexibility built into the hospital's schedule and courtesy calls from residents who do not catch cats. More and more vets are performing early spay/neuters on kittens as young as 8 weeks. Presently the contract clinic says they will be accepting kittens as young as 12 weeks. That doesn't mean that people should release younger kittens they catch. The best window of opportunity to tame a feral is between the time the kitten is weaned and 8 weeks. Therefore, young kittens trapped can be socialized and become highly adoptable. There is no reason to release a tame cat back into a colony.

We also realize the public's experience handling ferals will range. Some people will be pros while others will need guidance from the shelter staff and volunteers. Also keep in mind, post surgical recovery time is variable, dependent on the

weather, health/sex of the cat, and accommodations

the caretaker has to hold the "patient". BLOTTER Males tend to recuperate faster because their operation

is less invasive. In general, males should be held (still in the trap) in nice weather at least a day, and females at least 3 days, but this guideline is not carved in stone. There are techniques to convert traps into temporary recovery stations. When reliable feeders/guardians are assured, the cats should be re-released in the same area they were trapped. Relocation, a tricky process, is not recommended.

Finally I am taking the blame for the test/don't test choices. The disease transmission issue is complicated. Feral groups and even veterinarians have different views about the effectiveness of testing ferals and removing positive cats. In a separate column sometime soon I will delve into the pros and cons of FeLV/FIV testing in managed colonies. The original Babylon plan called for mandatory testing of all ferals. I worried it was too restrictive for the cats, and also feared that some seasoned feral advocates would opt out of this wonderful opportunity, if testing were required on all cats. Now caretakers have a choice.

Attention Feral Feeders at Tanner Park: The Town would like to open a dialogue with feeders at Tanner Park, and possibly help improve TNR efforts there in ways that will please the cats and public. Chris Elton, shelter director, requests that Tanner Park feeders call him at 643- 9270.

Town of Oyster Bay free TNR certificate system coming soon. Oyster Bay's feral assistance will be also start next month, but the plan is organized a bit differently. Both Towns' feral efforts will be successful with public participation, so please mark your calendars and start stocking up on smelly sardines.

For Adoption: This week the poster pets at Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset have fancy "patterned" coats. "Chestnut" #1116 is a 4 yr. chubby, brindle Lab mix, who gets along with other dogs, especially females. "Spackle" # 207 is a handsome white cat with splotches of black. Look for "Spackle" in a lobby cage. See more photos on the shelter's Petfinder site. Cats: 2 shaved cats #104/105 are the only poor pets left from the SPCA raid where 125 animals were seized. Dogs: "Gustaf" #59- Swiss Mt. Dog mix; "Doggie" #126- black Sharpei mix.

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