Feb 282012
 

OkeyI rescued Okey last year because I was afraid she would get hit by a car. She had some close calls with my own vehicle, and I had seen her dart across the road in front of other cars.

At the time, I thought that traffic, starvation and exposure to the elements were the biggest threats to her life.

Those were immediate threats. I have been learning, though, that there were other threats too. Until recently, I had no idea these threats existed.

The city itself poses a huge threat to stray and feral cats. Heartless and misinformed attitudes have shaped city policies regarding animal control.

Animal control in my city of Canton, OH means certain death for cats on the street.

Thank God no one called animal control on Okey. Three hundred and forty three other cats were not so lucky. That is the number of cats killed by the Stark County Humane Society after being trapped by the city’s Animal Control Officer, Phil Sedlacko last year.

It gets worse.

Mr. Sedlacko has demonstrated “inhumane treatment” of animals in his concurrent position with the Stark County Dog Pound, according to a reprimand last year by his supervisor. Numerous volunteers at the pound claim to have witnessed a pattern of inhumane behavior from Mr. Sedlacko towards animals under his care over many years.

The city has no responsibility over the county dog pound, but they can, and they should avoid contracting with a person who has such behavior on his record.

Despite the presence of a video documenting the incident for which Mr. Sedlacko was reprimanded, and despite numerous complaints from volunteers, city leaders refuse to acknowledge that Mr. Sedlacko is a problem.

A teacher who abuses children is no longer allowed to teach children. Likewise, an animal control officer who mistreats animals should not be allowed to work with animals.

When I asked City Safety Director Thomas Ream about this, he claimed that Mr. Sedlacko had made a mistake. I informed him that inhumane treatment of animals was not a “mistake”. He said we would have to “agree to disagree”.

There is some good news.

Animal welfare advocates have descended upon Canton, and they have become a strong force of influence upon Canton’s City Council. Two Council Members, Mary Cirelli and Frank Morris, have publicly challenged other members to consider other methods of animal control, and they have voiced strong opposition to continuing a contract with Mr. Sedlacko. The rest of Council agreed to modify his contract from a year to 90 days so that further investigation could occur.

Alley Cat Allies, a well respected organization with expertise in community Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program development, is providing considerable support to advocates and the city. They are assisting us in the effort to bring about an effective and humane TNR program for feral cats and providing resources to address wildlife in the city as well.

City leaders will likely put up roadblocks to the effort. They already have. Last night, city health commissioner James Adams expressed concern to a City Council committee about the potential health risks of a TNR program. He stated that he would have to see ecological impact research about TNR before embracing such a program. I later spoke with him and handed him a summary of ecological impact research done by Stanford University. The summary reads,

“While it is true that uncontrolled feral cat populations have the potential to spread disease, the evidence of a negative impact on human health remains fairly low and is largely unsubstantiated even through studies by health departments.”

Mr. Adams told me he had seen references to the Stanford research, but admitted that he had not really looked at it much. He did tell me he would explore it further.

In recent weeks, Canton has become the epicenter of animal rights  concerns in Ohio. We are not looking good in the eyes of animal lovers around the country, and, indeed, around the world. But I, and many other advocates are intent on changing that. We hope to work with our city leaders to bring about change that makes us the epicenter of progressive and humane treatment around the world.

There is a lot of work to be done, but it can be done. Will you join us?

There are a lot of Okey’s on the street counting on you.

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Feb 232012
 

feral cat in trap for TNR programAs I mentioned in previous posts, I am endeavoring to rescue a group of cats that have developed a colony on my friend’s property in Tuscarawas County, OH.

First, the kittens in the colony were taken to the Tuscarawas County Humane Society cat shelter, where they are receiving treatment for eye infections and upper respiratory infections. Two females were well enough for surgery immediately, and they have already been spayed. The 3 remaining males will be neutered when they are are a bit healthier. All will be placed for adoption when they are ready.

Second, we began the trapping process for the adult cats this past Tuesday. I successfully trapped 7 cats (!) and transported them to One is One of a Kind Pets in Fairlawn, OH for  spay/neutering. It was a 60 mile trip with 7 angry cats, but they were basically calm. My truck still smells like a zoo, though…

All 7 were spayed/neutered yesterday. We discovered that one is very tame and friendly. The clinic staff fell in love with him, and we have decided to put him up for adoption when he recovers from his surgery and an upper respiratory infection. YAY! Mr. Orange Stripey is going to get a furrever home with a loving family!!!

The rest of the cats will be returned to my friend’s property, where she will continue to feed and care for them and the rest of the colony.

Some people question the purpose of TNR. Why return wild cats? Why go to the trouble of catching and spaying a semi-wild animal?

There are a number of reasons, about which you can read in depth on the Alley Cat Allies website. Here is my summary:

  1. Cats that have not been neutered continue to mate and reproduce, leading to an overwhelming overpopulation of unwanted animals. There are also numerous behavior problems associated with the mating process that become a nuisance to humans. TNR stops the overpopulation and it eliminates the nuisance behaviors that annoy humans.
  2. Cats are territorial animals. They ward off interlopers to their colonies, and they do not attract other cats when they are neutered. Colonies of cats that are neutered control their own populations by their natural instincts. No new cats arrive to the colony through reproduction or wandering, so the population does not grow.
  3. Neutered cats tend to have fewer health concerns and they tend to live longer, quality lives in a managed colony. They pose negligible risks to public health according to research.

If you are interested in engaging in TNR activities, that is AWESOME! Please familiarize yourself with the process before you start. It is not an activity that you should attempt without guidance. Read Alley Cat Allies’ TNR Guide or other resources that provide technical guidance, and consult with experienced TNR rescuers. Develop a method for fund raising to allay costs. That is what I have done.

The next trapping of cats in the colony will take place next week. Stay tuned!

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Feb 162012
 

The kittens about whom I wrote the other day are now adjusting to their new temporary home at the Tuscarawas County Humane Society cat shelter! I am deeply grateful for the generosity of Megan, Shelter Director, and the rest of the kitty crew for taking in these special little critters.

In the coming days, they will get cleaned up, have their eyes tended to, and be assessed for health concerns. As you can see in the photo, the one with Siamese markings has major eye issues – her eyes are totally crusted together so that she cannot see. Some are coughing and sneezing too. That is not unusual. Megan expressed optimism about their recovery and potential adoption possibilities.

kitten rescueThere are 5 kittens in all. One was a little squirrely in my first capture attempt, but she made it to the shelter on the second try.

There are many fabulous cats at the shelter. If you are interested in adopting these kittens or other cats, check out their page of adoptable cats.

The trapping process with the adult feral cats begins next Tuesday. A friend from Peace for Pets is lending me some traps, and I will take as many as I can trap up to One is One of a Kind Pets in Fairlawn, OH for the spay/neuter. We have a warm place for their post op recovery and then they will go back to their habitat.

The process will be continued on other dates until we feel certain that all the cats have been vetted.

What an adventure!

BZTAT

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Feb 142012
 

feral kittensYesterday I wrote about how I was going to help with a friend’s feral cat colony. I mentioned that there were kittens in the group that had health issues. I got some good news about them today.

The Tuscarawas County Humane Society has a cat shelter, and they have agreed to take the kittens. Yay! Not only will they take them, they will also get them vetted and nursed back to health, and then put them up for adoption when they are ready.

I plan to catch the kittens tomorrow (I hope they won’t need traps) and take them in to the shelter in the evening. I will follow up with the shelter and keep you posted on their progress.

There are still adult cats who will need to be trapped, spay/neutered and returned to the wild. I am considering 2 programs for this. One is One of a Kind Pets in Fairlawn, OH. Fairlawn is quite a distance, but the program has better availability.  The other program is the Tuscarawas Co. Humane Society who uses the mobile Rascal Unit for low cost spay/neuter. Although it is closer, there is less frequent access to them.

Whichever program I choose, both will entail some costs for the spay/neuter process for each cat. I have started a ChipIn fund raising event to raise money to cover these costs. (Please see widget in sidebar.) Each spay/neuter will cost around $60. Transportation costs may need to be covered as well, if we use One of a Kind Pets. Any assistance that you can offer will be greatly appreciated.

All of the donated money will go to a dedicated account at the CSE Federal Credit Union in Canton, OH. If donated funds exceed actual costs, the money will be used for another rescue effort.

Please follow the rescue efforts on the Okey’s Promise Facebook page. Wish me well!

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