New Community Cat Program in Lone Star State
Helping the City of San Antonio Animal Care Services become a no-kill shelter is one of the goals of the recent $700,000, three-year grant for the Community Cat Program from PetSmart Charities and Best Friends. Dropping the euthanasia rate of community (aka free-roaming) cats by 25 percent hinges on the public-private partnership that the trap/neuter/return (TNR) program relies on. By sterilizing 3,500 cats per year, the program looks to reduce the number of cats reproducing in San Antonio.
A group effort
Joining San Antonio Animal Care Services are SpaySA (the primary clinic specializes in high-volume and low-cost spay/neuter surgeries), San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition, and Bethany Heins, the local Community Cat Program coordinator hired by Best Friends. San Antonio Humane Society and Spay-Neuter Assistance Program are also pitching in to help with spay/neuter.
In May, 520 cats alone were spayed and neutered thanks to the grant and there have been over 2,400 surgeries performed since April. "In fact, there was one record-setting day during that month where 144 cats were fixed in a mass clinic," shares Shelly Kotter, Best Friends cat initiatives manager. "We’re looking at targeting whole colonies, so we can TNR and vaccinate them all – the health and well-being of the cats is as important to us as keeping the population down, and taking care of all the community cats in one area is an efficient use of resources."
TNR, the humane way to help community cats
Chelsea Johansen, director of operations for SpaySA, is enthusiastic about what the program means to the cats of her city: "The ability to do more in San Antonio has been our mission. We’ve been working hard for many years – as has the San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition – but we still have a way to go. The program brings more focus to the issue and allows more people to get involved. It’s important that the public understand that outdoor cats need to be taken care of; they need our support." She echoes that the treatment that the community cats receive in their clinic is high quality, and in addition to being spay/neutered, vaccinated and ear-tipped, they are also given parasite treatment.
San Antonio Animal Care Services
Our on-the-ground staffer, Bethany, works closely with San Antonio Animal Care Services, especially assistant director of operations Vincent Medley to ensure concerned citizens’ calls regarding free-roaming cats go straight to her, so the proper arrangements for spay/neuter and then return can occur. The cats in the program will not be added to the main shelter population.
"The program is looking at ways to make the most impact. We’re addressing zip codes and contacting City Council members so they can target their constituents," says Jenny Burgess, executive director of San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition. Jenny’s group has trained over 3,300 people in the proper procedures for TNR since they started the training in 2007. They also have a TNR buddy system – people who have attended the seminars are encouraged to recruit more volunteers and community cat advocates.
"Essentially to make TNR work, everyone has to do their part in their own neighborhood," enthuses Jenny.
For more information on the program, check out the Best Friends blog.
For ways you can help the community cats of your area, check out resources on the Best Friends cat initiatives page.