TNR in Southern Utah
Over the last weekend in July, two communities in Southern Utah came together to help address the community cat (feral and stray cat) population with the help of Best Friends Animal Society. Our cat initiatives team was met with open arms in both Escalante and Boulder, an area where the closest veterinarian is two and a half hours away. The multi-day trap/neuter/return (TNR) project resulted in the fixing of 90 cats, with the help of local community cat caregivers, volunteers, and Best Friends staff and clinic.
TNR success in rural communities in Southern Utah
"We wanted to assist in helping our neighbors take care of their burgeoning community cat population by doing a volume-based event. We brought up 100 traps to split between the two communities, and they were all put to good use," shares Janice Dankert, community cat program supervisor. "We were especially keen on helping them because of the results we have been seeing due to the dedication of some special caregivers in Escalante. They facilitated approximately 200 cat spays and neuters over the summer, and we're seeing a reduction in the number of free-roaming cats. Dr. Patti Patterson and the whole Best Friends clinic team did an outstanding job in providing quality care."
The cat champions of Escalante are a powerhouse TNR trio: Allysia Angus, Cindy Calbaum and Paulette Ksiezak will not rest until all the cats are spayed or neutered. Allysia has been working to get the companion animals of her rural community fixed for years. In fact, she was among the first Utahns to try and get the Big Fix (Best Friends Animal Society-Utah's mobile spay/neuter clinic) to come to her area. These animal lovers are also extremely organized (spreadsheets track their progress), and ready to maximize their resources (they got an article in the local Garfield County publication to advertise the TNR event, sent out email blasts, and posted about the event on Facebook). When the big TNR weekend finally arrived, they were ready.
"Our community has people that deeply care about the animals here, but we have access to such a limited amount of resources," says Allysia. "We've got folks who are elderly or homebound for health reasons, and they're feeding 25 cats in their backyard. We are thrilled that we were able to provide them assistance, and in turn they also rose to the occasion and helped bring in as many cats as possible, and they were so appreciative."
Janice echoes this sentiment: "As soon as we got there, the people were so hospitable - they literally opened their homes to us, they offered us food and said, 'Don't get a hotel, stay with us.' It was so heartwarming to see a community care so much about the animals and us, too."
Best Friends on their side
The busy Best Friends clinic has no shortage of Sanctuary animals to take care of, but clinic staff sees helping community cats as helping one of their own. "I love cats, and being able to help these cats is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job," enthuses Dr. Patti. "These cats literally have no one else to help them. I am fulfilled and proud to be an advocate for and (help) those cats that are often overlooked."
She also says that there are further-reaching ramifications to being part of this lifesaving endeavor: "It is important for our clinic to support the Best Friends initiatives, as we are often looked to as role models for other rescue groups, shelters and animal advocates. We need to show these people TNR works, and working with, rather than against, a community cat population is a humane and rewarding way to help these cats and those who care for them."
You can help the community cats of your neighborhood. Go to the cat initiatives page to find out ways you can get involved.
Photos by Best Friends staff and Allysia Angus