Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Scarborough Animal Shelter Concerned For Feral Cats During Cold Season

The looming cold weather will hinder the fight to control the overpopulation of feral cats in Toronto, experts say. The Toronto Animal Services shelter at 821 Progress Ave. opened a free spay/neuter clinic in August 2010, which operates about six days a month.
Eletta Purdy, Toronto Animal Services manager, says the clinic will run until mid November and is slated to re-open in January, while they’ re-evaluating their trap-neuter-return (TNR) strategy, in which feral cats are sterilized so that they can’t produce offspring and then returned to their colonies.

“We may start up earlier than we planned depending on the gathering of more information on the releasing of these cats after they’ve been sterilized,” Purdy said. “We’re just concerned – we wouldn’t want to see them be released back into the cold and suffer because of the surgery.” Purdy says that they renovated existing space at the shelter for the spay/neuter clinic for feral cats and pets that are put up for adoption, as they couldn’t afforded to have a new building. She says the city pays for the staffing of the clinic and donations fund the supplies to perform surgeries. “If we want to expand it, we’ll have to look at donations for staffing also,” Purdy said. “Hopefully [donations] will start to go up and then we’ll be able to continue with the clinic. But right now we’re O.K. for this year.”

Kathy Quinn, a Toronto Animal Services supervisor, says the service is “the first of its kind in North America.” Since 2008, the Toronto Feral Cat Project has also helped in the fight to control the overpopulation of Toronto’s feral cats. The organization’s goal is to educate the public on the TNR strategy, as it’s the only proven method of long-term population control, said Roxanne St. Germain, a public relations and education officer of the Toronto Feral Cat Project. She says TNR is the most humane way to deal with feral cats, as all of them can’t be rescued since they’re too many. As well, most are not “sociable,” and therefore they can’t be adopted. St. Germain says the opening of the spay/neuter clinic is a “huge step for the city of Toronto” and people are taking advantage of it as it’s a financial burden to feed cats and get them spayed or neutered. “There are so many people calling trying to get appointments to trap and bring their cats in for spay and neuter at that clinic,” St. Germain said. “So it’s really important that we put pressure on the city of Toronto to fund this solution because it’s the only solution that will work. “It’s really important that the city councillors and the new mayor really take this as an important issue and really allocate some funds and an ongoing commitment surrounding feral cat clinics at the Toronto Animal Services.”

Feral cat caretakers have to register their colony on the Toronto Feral Cat Project’s website and take TNR training sessions to be eligible to go to the Toronto Animal Services’ free clinic, St. Germain said. The Toronto Feral Cat Project works closely with the Toronto Humane Society, which held an event Oct. 16 for Nation Feral Cat Day with workshops to teach people about TNR. “It’s really important that everybody works as a community,” St. Germain said. “You need people, you need organizations, local communities, districts, and the city to be involved – it’s a right-across-the-board project.” She says there are workshops as well as support groups. “And we have a support group that [people] can join and it’s really beneficial because it’s very stressful to take care of a colony of cats,” St. Germain said. “You have to be there every day. It’s financially stressful, it’s a time constraint, emotionally very hard on a lot of the people who take care of these cat colonies, because cats are just vulnerable and they get killed and they get hurt and they get sick.” St. Germain says the organization has a Toronto feral cat survey and they’re asking people to register colonies on their website, which is kept confidential, as they’re trying to find out how many cat colonies exist in Toronto. She says it’s also a way to back up their claims when they ask for funding from the government. The Toronto Feral Cat Project will be ongoing indefinitely, while the organization is in the process of deciding whether it’s going to become a charitable organization or non-profit group, St. Germain said.

*The Toronto Observer

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