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Best Friends Animal Society cat expert keynote speaker at feral cat symposium

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (May 20, 2010) - National animal welfare organization Best Friends Animal Society's expert on free-roaming or "feral" cats will be the keynote speaker at the "Every Cat Counts" Feral Cat Symposium this weekend in Bakersfield.

"We have asked Shelly Kotter from Best Friends to be our keynote speaker so that we can take advantage of her extensive experience in creating successful feral cat management programs throughout the country," said Sandy Dralle, executive director of Bakersfield SPCA. Kotter is the campaign specialist for Best Friends' Focus on Felines campaign.

The Feral Cat Symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 22 at the Kern Agricultural Pavilion, 3300 E. Belle Terrace, in Bakersfield. The symposium is being presented by the Cat Coalition which includes: the Bakersfield SPCA, The Cat People, Bakersfield Cat Control, Friends of the Kern County Animal Shelter Foundation, OKRA (Orphan Kitten Rescue & Adoption), Kern Humane Society, Bakersfield Pet Food Pantry, Campus Cats, CSUB, Feral Cat Caretakers Coalition, Kern County Animal Control, Anderson Acres and the Kern County Animal Commission.

"The Feral Cat Symposium is the community's opportunity to gather together to find solutions to our county's massive cat overpopulation problem," Dralle said. "In 2009, 80 percent (11,042) of those cats turned into our county shelters were euthanized because of our lack of healthy, caring homes."

Kotter's keynote speech will focus on "The Difference One Can Make."

"People in the animal rescue community may not be aware of their power to influence and inspire individuals and municipalities to realize they can be part of the solution. When they inspire that one person in the community, it becomes like ripples on the pond as more people get involved," Kotter said.

"All it takes is that one mayor in Iowa who says yes to creative, humane approaches; that one casino manager in Las Vegas who says yes to taking responsibility for the feral cat colonies who live there, that one tire shop in Arizona or the car dealership in Utah where the owners say yes to sterilizing all the stray cats who have collected behind their businesses and provide them shelter; that one neighbor who organizes a block party of people who share responsibility for their cat colony; or that one city councilmember who demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of trap-neuter-return and leads the effort to commit funds for spay/neuter of community cats.

"You get enough 'ones' together and you end up with hundreds, then thousands working together to help homeless cats and humanely reduce their numbers," Kotter said

"Statistics are grim in the Bakersfield area when you consider how many cats get euthanized, but I am very impressed that local animal welfare groups are addressing the problem of how to humanely lessen the population of homeless cats and at the same time provide care to the cats already in the community," she added.

Best Friends Animal Society uses the term "community cats" because the problem and the solution lie within each community and there is no one description that fits all homeless cats. Some are abandoned or lost housecats and some have never been socialized.

"In Bakersfield the animal welfare/animal rescue groups understand that the free-roaming cat issue needs to be addressed in very big way," Kotter said, "and this symposium is a huge opportunity for cat lovers to get better grasp on what Bakersfield has to offer, as well as what is needed to successfully work towards a humane solution," Kotter said.

About Best Friends Animal Society®

Best Friends Animal Society is a nonprofit organization building no-kill programs and partnerships that will bring about a day when there are No More Homeless Pets®. The society's leading initiatives in animal care and community programs are coordinated from its Kanab, Utah, headquarters, the country's largest no-kill sanctuary. This work is made possible by the personal and financial support of a grassroots network of supporters and community partners across the nation.

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