Small TNR, Spay/Neuter Program Gets Big Money

 |  Jun 1st 2011  |   3 Contributions


This photo of a feral cat colony behind LiMato Field in Ewing, N.J., was taken in 2008. Photo by Cle Stroud

A Trenton, N.J., nonprofit has received a big financial boost to support its efforts to control the city's stray and feral cat population.

Trenton Trap Neuter Release has partnered with the Trenton Animal Shelter to help reduce the number of street cats. The groups spay, neuter, and vaccinate community cats, then return them to their colonies, where they are cared for by neighborhood volunteers.

Now, thanks to a $10,000 grant from PetSmart, the group is able to offer low- or no-cost services for spaying and neutering not just area strays but pet cats as well.

According to a flyer from Trenton TNR, the spay/neuter services cost $15 for a street cat and $35 for a pet cat -- well below the full price of the surgery.

Every week, some of Trenton TNR's 70 volunteers help neighborhood residents capture community cats for the TNR program. The group also performs health screenings in order to avoid returning sick animals to the colonies.

"So far this year, we've done about 200 cats, which is a lot," said Sandra Obi, who runs Trenton TNR.

If the cats are friendly, they are placed in foster care and later put up for adoption. Truly feral cats are returned to their home neighborhoods. Once the cats are released, residents volunteer to become caregivers, feeding the felines, observing their health, and checking for any newcomers -- who are also vaccinated and fixed.

Alison Ziolkowski works with Trenton TNR to manage a group of ferals at a business where she works. Colony caretaking is "very easy," she said.

"They come and get me every day. They know my schedule. They're my work pets," Ziolkowski said.

Of the 15 cats trapped at her colony, 13 were released. Ziolkowski didn't say where she works because she doesn't want people to dump their unwanted cats there.

Obi says that although it might seem useless to release the strays after they are captured, their presence actually helps to keep the cat population from getting any bigger.

"Cats are very territorial, and they live in colonies based on families," she said. Because of this, they chase away others that come to their area. And since the spayed and neutered cats can't reproduce, the group's size decreases with time.

On the other hand, Obi says, removing cats has exactly the opposite result. "It's called the vacuum effect. When you remove an animal from the environment and that environment can already support that type of animal, more animals are bound to move in and take their place," she said.

Obi's TNR efforts began about six years ago when she noticed a group of street cats -- and later, their kittens -- on her block.

"We ended up trapping about 50 cats. Now I am down to just four. The end goal is to have zero cats," she said.

Another argument in favor of the TNR program is that it is cost-effective. Whereas the only ongoing cost for trap-neuter-release programs comes from heavily discounted spaying, neutering and vaccinating services, "it costs animal control between $100 and $120 per animal to capture and euthanize a cat," said Obi.

Whether Trenton TNR receives more grant money to continue the subsidized spay/neuter program depends on their ability to demonstrate that their service is reducing the number of cats trapped and killed by Trenton Animal Control.

"If we succeed, it is likely we will receive more funding next year," Obi said.

[Source: Times of Trenton, N.J.]

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