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2015-04-01 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

So many feral cats: A ubiquitous tragedy discussed many times in “Pets,” although last week a Letter to the Editor from an Amityville resident suggests that the topic is overlooked here; that “getting information, guidance and assistance from local municipalities is next to impossible.” She says: “What is needed is better information and resources through local municipalities, better cooperation between Town shelters and local rescues so individuals and residents can get the right information on how to handle cat overpopulation.” Oh, really? That’s news to me.

Not in the letter writer’s Town. I beg to differ when it comes to Babylon, Hempstead and non-profit rescues. Yes, there’s a lack of municipal support in certain Towns like Islip, but not where she lives.

We as a society have created the feral cat glut. A cat or two callously dumped will generate multitudes in a few years. Their kittens quickly become unadoptable without human touch. Ignoring doesn’t make the cats disappear. Instead, they continue to multiply and suffer. It’s a community problem that requires a compassionate, community response. Over burdened rescuers cannot do it all, especially during kitten season which has exploded despite our harsh winter. It’s as if rescuers are going from wildfire to wildfire, trapping cats to be altered and vaccinated. If you find cats in your yard or under your deck, you need to become an active part of the solution. Help and guidance are available, when you look.

“Amy” waited for her kittens before being rescued at Frontier Trailer Park. She is available for adoption through Last Hope. “Amy” waited for her kittens before being rescued at Frontier Trailer Park. She is available for adoption through Last Hope. Babylon: Plenty of assistance and financial aid come from Babylon Shelter and local rescues. Our shelter in conjunction with their volunteer group Shelter Link ( hosted another free feral seminar in Town Hall about the tenets of Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) two weeks ago, open to everyone interested. Babylon Shelter lends humane traps, teaches rookies how to use them and offers half-price (and, at times, free) vouchers to residents and business owners for feral spay/neuter. Shelter director Chris Elton acts as a Cat Kissinger intermediating disputes between cat caretakers and the disgruntled. He has worked out successful solutions involving managed TNR in places that have previously been overrun with ferals. Meanwhile, Almost Home ( spays/ neuters cats as well as chained dogs in Wyandanch as part of their Training Wheels outreach.

Hempstead: For several years, Hempstead Shelter has been offering free feral spay/neuter for residents, often spaying 100 cats per week. Those who do their own trapping are accommodated sooner. People who need the shelter crew to catch the cats are on a waiting list. (Participants in all TNR agreements must return the cats after recovery to the same site captured, plus assure there will be a caretaker for the colony.) Recently, Hempstead unveiled a new mobile surgical van with two operating tables. The Town plans to bring it into areas where there are feral colonies as well as owned dogs to be neutered.

LI rescues: In contrast, Islip does not have a Town feral cat program. Private rescues, Shelter Link and Last Hope (, issue as many feral surgical vouchers as they can for Islip residents and people throughout LI. Since 2003, over 18,000 cats have been altered with Last Hope’s Fix-A- Feral certificates.

Frontier Trailer Park: Before going any further, it is time to disclose our largest, cooperative feral effort ever, which we have been keeping under wraps. Babylon Shelter, Last Hope, All About Spay/Neuter and A Wing and a Prayer are working together. I must be intentionally vague about the plan. This rescue project involves the fate of hundreds of ferals and abandoned tame cats.

Frontier Trailer Park in N. Amityville is being demolished to make way for new construction. The residents of 300+ trailers were first notified in 2011. They lost their legal battle; but, with intervention of the Babylon Town, those who applied received a $20,000 stipend from the developers toward relocation. But how will they find another place for $6oo rent a month where they can live with their pets? Many struggle to survive day to day; many are not equipped to plan for the future.

Frontier has always been a microcosm of poverty on LI. For decades many of the shelter’s saddest cases of neglect and hoarding were from Frontier. With poverty comes a host of social ills. This situation is heartbreaking because both people and pets are losing their homes. Soon the ferals will be deprived of their feeders and cover. We began by going door to door in February to take an informal census of owned and feral cats. Many were understandably afraid to open their door to strangers. An old tortie walked up to our crew. She had a huge oral tumor. It was kindest to put her to sleep. Mailboxes were stuffed, so the post office delivered some stamped English/Spanish surveys we left that were never opened.

There are five phases of evictions and destruction. Feral cat monitoring will take years. Surrendered pets from Phase 1 were placed by the shelter, Last Hope and North Shore Animal League. Phase 2 is underway now. Dedicated volunteers trapping cats are there as trailers are yanked away and structures bulldozed. Incredible “Amy,” a Mama cat, came out from under a trailer but refused to leave with the kind ladies until her three kittens showed themselves too.

Last Hope has hosted three free Spay Days so far around the Frontier cats where vets, vet techs and volunteers donate their time and skills. Two more are planned for April. All cats are being FeLV/FIV tested first which is not the regular routine. On March 23, a total of 70 ferals from all around LI got “soup to nuts” veterinary care, ear-tips and altering. Cats that seem tame are held to evaluate if they are adoptable. The groups are sharing placements. Amy’s kittens were adopted from Last Hope while she waits at our Petco Syosset cage for someone to notice how wonderful she is.

You too can help stop the flood of ferals by cooperating with caregivers, recognizing ear-tipped cats as already altered, not turning your back on lingering strays, fostering kittens or donating cat food and funds to one of the organizations involved with the Frontier Feral project.

More Frontier Pets for Adoption: “Cutie Pie” 5-49 belonged to someone who lost her trailer. So did “Ashley” 15-165, a pleasant gray Pit. They are at Babylon Shelter, Lamar St., W. Babylon (631-643-9270) while “Winnie” probably was abandoned during evictions in Phase 2. This dear calico is at Last Hope in Wantagh (631-425-1884).

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