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Spring 2008 - Act•ionLine

by Dustin Garrett Rhodes | Spring 2008

Friends of Animals Befriends Feral Cats in Texas

The San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition is on a mission. The non-profit is ready to “eliminate the breeding of feral and free-roaming cats through the practice of Trap-Neuter-Return” -- a highly effective means of decreasing the number of animals who are brought to San Antonio Animal Care Services. It can’t come too soon. According to coalition director Linda Sowdal, the death of 1,000 animals in a week at the city-run pound has been a “normal event” for the past few decades.

Each year, some 50,000 dogs and cats are deposited at San Antonio’s pound. The adoption rate is abysmal: about 95% percent are killed. Every cat who enters Animal Care Services in a trap is killed, presumed feral and therefore not adoptable. In fact, 20 to 30 percent of them are someone’s pets, and the others can be neutered and monitored by caregivers familiar with the Trap-Neuter-Return method.

What is Trap-Neuter-Return? It’s a humane, focused way to stop cats from breeding. Caregivers provide food, monitor the health and sterilize each and every cat in a given area, and this safely phases out colonies of abandoned domestic cats and their offspring.

The San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition works to educate the public about the plight of feral cats, the effectiveness of Trap-Neuter-Return and the general need to sterilize pets. Additionally, the coalition provides support to individuals who work with cats.

In February, Friends of Animals, through our well-known certificate program, pledged $50,000 to spay and neuter feral cats in San Antonio. Involved in this effort is a wide variety of individuals and local groups, including the San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition and Kathryn Bice, president of the Animal Resource Center. Sowdal says the funds will cover sterilizations for about a thousand unowned cats through the clinic at the Animal Resource Center.

San Antonio Animal Services has decided it’s time to achieve “no kill” status, and the certificates “will go a long way to reduce the intake numbers over the next four years, simply by reducing births during that time,” Sowdal notes. San Antonio’s City Council is already moving to require that all dogs and cats that are kept outside be sterilized. Funds will be diverted from the current “catch and kill” to free and low-cost sterilization and vaccination services -- a move the Feral Cat Coalition strongly supports.

When asked why San Antonio has put so many animals to death, Sowdal speculates that some people do not consider animals to have any value and simply assume that, as taxpayers, they have a right to a free disposal service for unwanted animals.

Sowdal further speculates that ignorance about the health benefits of sterilization also plays a factor.

Furthermore, Sowdal observes that some people still believe “nature should take its course,” but points out that surveys clearly show that a vast majority of people will sterilize their pet “if cost and convenience were favorable.”

And that’s just what the San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition, with the help of Friends of Animals, aims to ensure.

For more information, visit:www.sanantonioferalcats.org

Dustin Garrett Rhodes

Act•ionLine Spring 2008

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