By Becky Robinson, President and Co-Founder of Alley Cat Allies
A tiny black kitten got himself into a mess when he ended up in a storm drain in Spartanburg, S.C., last month, but lucky for him, Spartanburg Animal Services spent hours rescuing him. The animal control officers documented the whole rescue through a photo essay on the department’s Facebook page, featuring images of the wide-eyed kitten, who they named Puddles, covered in grass at the bottom of the manhole and eventually safe in their arms.
This October 16 is National Feral Cat Day. Thousands of advocates will spend their day pushing for more humane policies for cats so that more cats and kittens can be as lucky as Puddles. Alley Cat Allies launched National Feral Cat Day in 2001 to raise awareness about feral cats, promote Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and recognize the millions of compassionate Americans like you who love and care for cats.
A few years ago, Puddles’ story may have ended very differently. Just like most animal control departments, Spartanburg Animal Services took feral and stray cats like Puddles straight to the local shelter where they were usually “euthanized” (this is not genuine euthanasia—an animal is only euthanized when she is terminally ill or untreatably injured). This approach is devastating for the cats and for the shelter and animal control staff working to help them. But like many shelters and animal control departments, Spartanburg Animal Services recently made the decision to overhaul its policing policies and focus on programs that save more lives and educate the community. One of its most successful new programs is Trap-Neuter-Return for outdoor cats.
In January 2013, the department stopped picking up healthy outdoor cats and impounding them at the shelter. They now strictly follow the TNR model. The cats are humanely trapped, then vaccinated and neutered. Kittens like Puddles who are young enough to be socialized are put up for adoption, and adult feral cats are returned to where they were trapped.
This community has undergone a complete transformation, and the response has been extremely positive. In fact, groups as far away as the Netherlands and Australia are applauding its work and seeking to set up similar programs.
This National Feral Cat Day, we’re supporting advocates all over the country who are working to make their own communities safe for cats. Every cat deserves to live in a safe community, and you are the architects of change for cats in your community. You can help your community protect cats’ lives and adopt humane policies and programs for cats. Alley Cat Allies is here to support you.
We’re calling on our supporters nationwide to hold events in their communities. They can be as simple as handing out brochures about feral cats and Trap-Neuter-Return at a community center or your favorite pet retailer, organizing a cat food drive, or holding a bake sale or other small fundraising event for a local rescue group. You could also organize a TNR effort or work with a local spay/neuter clinic to expand services to feral cats. Of course, your event doesn’t have to be on October 16.
About 70 percent of all cats who enter shelters are “euthanized,” and that number jumps up to 100 percent for feral cats. Shelters want a model that helps them save more lives. That’s why we’re challenging you to partner with your local shelter to implement simple policy changes that can protect the lives of feral cats and help them channel more resources to adoptable cats and dogs. And, just for you, we’ve created a handy guide to helping your shelter save more cats: www.alleycat.org/HelpShelters.
Just like Puddles, all cats deserve to live in communities where people value their lives and treat them with compassion. This National Feral Cat Day, let’s work toward the goal of making every single community a safe place for cats to live.
Photo credit: Thinkstock