Animal Advocacy

Saving Sarah

posted October 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Susan Payne

An Online Diary of Airedale RescuerFrancis Martin   March 23, 2007

“Meet Sarah, a two-year-old Airedale with severe demodectic mange. She was an owner give-away and was to be put to sleep if no one responded to the ad on Petfinder. The owner had bought her to use as a breeder, but her skin ‘allergies’ had prevented him from breeding her.”

Demodectic mange is a treatable mite infestation that dogs can have at birth, according to Martin. “Her skin was infected, and she had oozing, smelly sores. I was constantly cleaning up blood drops that fell from her wounds.”

April 1, 2007 

“Sarah continues to improve daily. Her sores are drying out, which is good; however, they’re causing her to scratch like crazy…. Earlier today, she met and played nicely with resident Airedales, Ben and Harry. I was very pleased with their interaction and think they will all be good friends soon.”

Martin painfully tells of Sarah’s former life. “She spent her first two years, out in the elements,” Martin said. “She came to me shortly after the ice storm, and I couldn’t help but think about her being outside in that weather.”

May 6, 2007 

“Sarah just seems to be a normal dog now. She has a great appetite, loves to run and play with her buddies, and loves to chew on anything she can get her teeth into! She is now a typical two-year-old Airedale; a vast improvement from two months ago.”

Martin, a third-grade teacher at Hoover Elementary in the Tulsa Public School system, started out in Scottie rescue – a 10-year pursuit. She still has her Scotty named Mikey, along with Sage Marie, a Cairn Terrier, who is “the boss of the family, even though she’s the littlest,” Martin said.

Martin’s brood – for today – also includes four Airedales: Henry and Ben, permanent residents, and Sarah and Annie, foster dogs.

“Annie is moving to her new home in Fayetteville tomorrow,” Martin said. “She’s about 6 or 7-months old – it’s much easier to adopt out the puppies [like Annie].”

June 13, 2007 

“The Dr. tells me that I am FREE of mange! No more medicine or medicated baths! I am also spayed now and am feeling great and looking beautiful. I am ready for my people to come and adopt me so I can settle into my permanent home as a beloved member of the family.”

Applications to adopt Sarah and other Airedales come in through the Oklahoma Airedale Rescue Society’s web site, www.okairedales.com. “We screen the applicants through an adoption application, a home visit, and even a vet check,” Martin said. 

“We want to make sure that people know what they’re getting into,” Martin said. “[Airedales] need agility work, long walks and quite a bit of grooming. If you leave them alone too long in the backyard, they may dig.”

Martin is quick to tell why she loves Airedales, with their often comical personalities. “They remind me of the comic Robin Williams. They are quirky, funny and free entertainment.

“Airdales are very athletic dogs, and they need a lot of stimulation,” Martin said. “They learn quickly if you give them structure. They become confident, social and calm.”

August 18 – a new start for Sarah

And there is good news for Sarah. 

On Aug. 18, the once neglected and largely forgotten Airedale, will join her new family in Henderson, Nevada, near Las Vegas.

“She is going to live with an active, retired, educated couple who are home all day,” Martin said. “The woman walks every day, and they live in an active senior village of homes.”

Martin said the couple’s previous Airedale had died, and that they were ready to adopt another – a secret they are keeping from the neighbors. 

“The neighbors wanted them to get another Airedale so much, they even offered to help take care of the dog, if that was what it would take,” Martin said.

“Sarah will be part of the community,” Martin said. “People in the neighborhood gather at the plaza at night for coffee, and they all bring their dogs. She will be loved – and that’s what matters most.”

And now, for the rest of the story:

I  fell in love with Sarah the instant I saw her.  She was so beautiful and healthy looking.  As soon as I hugged her I knew it was for keeps.

When we got home, there was a banner on the door from a neighbor, welcoming her to her new home.  She walked right up to my husband and kissed him.  That won him over!  Then she explored the yard.  She found a rabbit hole under a rosemary bush.  She didn’t come out with a rabbit, but she sure smelled of rosemary.  Then she discovered koi in a pond.  She watched them for awhile and was only a little bit tempted to dive in after them.

She follows me around during the day and sleeps in our bedroom at night.  Sarah has found a wonderful home, but more importantly, we have found a wonderful buddy.

I wish more people would consider adopting rescue dogs.  There have been a lot of people to thank for our having this dog, but the biggest appreciation goes to Frances Martin in Tulsa for her patience, dedication, and love of dogs.  If it were not for the efforts of Frances Martin, a wonderful dog would probably be dead today.  It gives me chills to think what this dog went through.  This is our third rescue dog and our third happy ending.

Joyce Jensen, Henderson, Nevada, Sarah’s new Mom

Reporting Animal Cruelty and Neglect

posted October 15th, 2007 by
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Story by D. Faith Orlowski

From your back porch, you can tell that your neighbors’ dogs have not been fed or watered for days.  Or on your way to work, you see the same dog on the same short chain out in the sun and weather sitting in a puddle on a concrete pad.  
Or you notice things even worse.  What should you do?

If you witness animal abuse or neglect, you should always report it.  In the Tulsa metropolitan area and surrounds, there is always confusion as to who to call.  My advice – call everyone until you are sure that the matter has been investigated.

Start with the Tulsa Animal Shelter (phone: 918-669-6299) or the Tulsa Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (the “TSPCA”, phone: 918-428-7722).  While the TSPCA’s cruelty investigator is part time due to funding restraints, do not let that dissuade you.  The important thing is that the problem is reported and the animal is assisted.  

There are actions you can take to assist the local authorities.  First, gather the facts – the location of the animal (exact address) and a description of the situation (lack of food and water, injuries or sores, inhumanely confined or chained, generally neglected, etc.).  The more specific you can be, the better the chance you have of persuading the authorities to investigate.  If possible, document the incident with photographs or videos.  Learn how to use your cell phones for this purpose.  If the animal cruelty is not witnessed directly but is suspected, document all you can, with all specificity possible (note dates, times, circumstances, type and number of animals, persons involved, addresses, detailed description of the animals and person(s) involved) and report the cruelty to the authorities immediately.

The very slight possibility of having to testify should never outweigh the concern of acting and reporting the abuse.  The main interest is to remove the animal from the situation.  So few of these cases go to Court that your main concern should be for the animal’s welfare and providing the authorities enough information to substantiate your concern so they will investigate.

If the sheriff or police must be involved, the problem is finding someone who has the time to investigate.  The main reason given for not prosecuting animal abuse and neglect cases is that it takes the officers the same amount of time to investigate and gather the evidence for an animal investigation as it does for crime investigations involving people. Unfortunately, animal cruelty matters – especially neglect issues – rarely get much attention from County Sheriffs or police officers for a variety of reasons.  Secondly, pursuing animal abuse issues must be important to the local district attorney, because all the investigating you do will mean nothing if the DA is not interested in prosecuting these matters.  

Now most animal lovers will face a “Catch 22” of sorts when it comes to animal neglect – especially as to the lack of food, water or blankets from the freezing conditions.  If you provide the animal with assistance and then the officer goes to investigate, all he or she will see is an animal that has food, water or bedding.  First, never put yourself in physical danger – from the animal or from the animal’s keeper.  Second, if you fear for the animal’s life prior to an officer investigating the situation and you do not feel you will be in danger, then use the buddy system.  Take a friend with a video camera shooting the scene as it is when you approach.  Then continue videotaping while you place the food, water or bedding within reach of the animal.  Continue videotaping showing the animal’s reaction.  At least this way, the tape will show that you supplied the necessities.  Law officials will never tell you to do this because you are more than likely trespassing, as well as placing yourself in harm’s way.  I am not recommending this action.  I just understand how many of us react to situations like this.

Please be aware that if the animal appears to be suffering from extreme starvation, you should not feed them, since their excessive overeating could cause harm or death.  If horrendous starvation is observed, call authorities, local television stations, newspapers, veterinarians, city officials – anyone and everyone – so that enough excitement is created to remove the animals to emergency care.

“Cruelty” under the Tulsa city ordinances is defined as actions intended “to willfully or maliciously overdrive, overload, torture, torment, destroy or kill or cruelly beat or injure, maim or mutilate, any animal in subjugation or captivity, whether wild or tame, and whether belonging to himself or to another, or depriving any such animal of necessary food, drink or shelter; or causing, procuring or permitting any such animal to be so overdriven, overloaded, tortured, tormented, destroyed or killed, or cruelly beaten or injured, maimed or in any way furthering any act of cruelty to any animal or in any act tending to produce such cruelty.”  The state statute is very similarly worded, but allows such acts to be treated as a felony calling for imprisonment of up to one year in a county jail or up to five years in a state penitentiary and/or a fine of up to $500.00.  Any officer finding an animal so maltreated or abused may also take possession of the animal and is able to place a lien on it which must be paid prior to its reclamation.

The main solution for many animal neglect situations lies in education.  And, fortunately, society has begun to recognize that those who intentionally abuse animals often continue that cycle of violence on humans.  Until it stops, please be vigilant.  If you see a neglected or abused animal, please take action – it could save a life.

Adopt-A-Dog Month

posted October 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Mary Coley

According to Larry Briggs, Animal Welfare Department shelter director, “the American Humane Association established this special month, which is celebrated every October. The tradition promotes dog adoptions from animal shelters and provides an opportunity to spread the word about responsible pet care and how much having a pet companion can enrich your life. There are not enough caring homes for animals that are currently homeless.”
“By adopting a dog this month, or at any time of year, people are saving the lives of these precious animals and giving them much-needed, loving homes,” added Cassandra Love, Community Involvement Coordinator for Animal Welfare. “Our facility is designed to help answer any questions you might have about pet adoption or care of your pet, including information on spaying and neutering programs to prevent unwanted litters of kittens and puppies.” 

“We will also be providing more opportunities for adoption of pets both at the facility and through our redesigned website,” Love added.

“The website’s new information guide includes the leash laws, how animals are impounded, how you can adopt an animal, why your animals should be licensed and vaccinated and how you can arrange for your pet to be spayed or neutered,” said Love.

Visitors can find the complete language of the city ordinance related to animals, an information guide with a section on pet behavior and photos of dogs and cats that need homes at www.tulsa-animalshelter.org .

Dewayne Smith, Working in Neighborhoods (WIN) Department Director, which oversees the Animal Welfare Department, has studied the operations of animal shelters in comparative cities and will be implementing best practices in Tulsa. “Shelter management will continue to work with animal interest groups like the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals to set higher standards and review missions and goals,” Smith said.

The WIN department is tasked with forming and strengthening homeowner associations and also coordinating City services with residents.

“The shelter is improving every day,” said Mayor Kathy Taylor. “By placing the shelter’s management within the Working in Neighborhoods Department, we can increase our focus on neighborhood improvement and citizen engagement.”

“My pets have certainly enriched my life, and I am certain that those who work with and for our Animal Welfare Department have the best interests of both the animals and the people who will care for them in mind.”

Briggs and Love are currently meeting with several breed-specific rescue organizations to encourage them to rescue animals from the Tulsa Animal Welfare Department shelter and assist in finding them new homes. “We hope the input and advice coming from these meetings will help us increase the number of adoptable pets going to homes,” said Briggs. “The staff and I want citizens to come here knowing they will receive a healthy pet that will be a cherished member of their family for years to come.”

Those who come to the animal shelter during October’s Adopt-a-Dog month will likely find both long-term volunteers and employees to assist them. Volunteers at the shelter may serve as dog and cat companions, helping with everything from walking the dogs to cleaning their cages and kennels. Others are shelter greeters, escorting potential adopters around the kennels and cattery as they search for their future pet. These volunteers can provide information about specific animals.

 “Volunteers are the core of an organization. They bring experience with them and are willing to learn new things,” said Love. “We are always looking for volunteers who love animals and want to see them go to forever homes.”  If you are looking for a rewarding volunteer experience, please call Cassandra Love at 669-6289 or email her at [email protected]

To adopt a pet during October, see the website, www.tulsa-animalshelter.org , or visit the shelter. Tulsa Animal Welfare Department is located at: 3031 North Erie Avenue, Tulsa OK 74115.  Our adoption facility is open daily, except on City holidays: Tuesday through Friday 10 A.M. to 6 P.M.; Saturday: 12 Noon to 4 P.M.

Using Animals for Profit: Puppy Mills

posted July 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Sherri Goodall

 Three to four million cats and dogs are euthanized by U.S. animal shelters every year. Yet, nearly one third of the nation’s 11,000 pet stores continue to sell puppies.  Most come from puppy mills.

Everyone knows who is man’s best friend …but, what happens when these adoring pets are mass-produced without socialization skills? You get a frightened and nervous animal whose basic instincts have been reduced to simple fear.

Dogs need a pack…whether it’s another dog, or a human. They learn that positive behavior garners rewards, like food, praise, and most importantly, trust.

Dr. Mike Jones, DVM, used the example of Greyhounds. He worked with Dr. Ross Clark many years ago in rescuing Greyhounds. All they knew were crates and a running track. You put them in front of stairs, and they didn’t have a clue. It’s like putting a horse in front of a cattle bar…”

It’s the same thing with a puppy mill. The dogs are not used to human contact, so they’re mistrustful. What is play, what is a house, what is a yard, what is grass? Behaviorists tell us it takes two years for every year in a puppy mill to rehabilitate a dog.

What is a puppy mill?
 

Puppy mills exist for one reason—profit. Sell as many puppies as possible in order to make as much money as possible.

In the worst cases, conditions at these “kennels” are horrid. Dogs are stacked in wire cages. Waste drops to the lowest crate. Dogs aren’t exercised, many go “crate crazy,” turning in endless circles. Females are bred every time they come into heat. Most lose their hair and teeth from being bred so often. If there are several in a caged area, they must fight for food. Human contact is scarce. Those in concrete-floored kennels  get hosed down along with the waste. Puppies barely have time to bond with their exhausted mothers before they’re sold. 

Obviously, long-term psychological and physical problems abound that can cost thousands of dollars down the road.

 After the breeding dogs are no longer fertile, they are abandoned, taken to auctions, or sadly, killed. Their lives are short and desperate.

Who is the target market for puppy mills?

YOU, if you buy from pet stores, classified ads, internet breeders or “parking lot” breeders without checking them out. 

Dr. Jones, “There is no such thing as an ugly puppy. Impulse and convenience make it so easy to buy from that person with a box of puppies at a busy intersection, in a parking lot, or at a flea market. Usually these breeders will only take cash.” That is not to say that people with a litter of puppies can’t sell them. We’re talking about the mass producer. 

Petsmart and Petco DO NOT sell puppies. They both sponsor pet adoptions through local animal shelters. However, many independent pet stores still sell puppies. Where do they get them?   From puppy mills.   In many cases, puppy brokers act as a middle man to buy from puppy mills and sell them to pet stores.

Who is a reputable breeder?

Dr. Jones, “A reputable breeder breeds dogs for one reason—to keep the breed up to its highest standards. Most compete in confirmation trials where the breeds are judged on very strict breed standards. They will sell puppies, but only after certain conditions are met.”

 If you decide to choose a breeder:

  • Visit the premises (bona fide breeders do not meet in parking lots).
  • Check out the kennel conditions and the other dogs, especially the puppy’s parents.
  • Check references, other clients and vets.
  •  Breeder must provide you with AKC papers, a written contract, and health guarantee with provisions to take the puppy back if problems occur.
  •  (The American Kennel Club (AKC) is a licensing organization only. Anyone can get AKC  papers if they send in the fee. This does not guarantee breeding purity or practices).
  • Dogs should be at home in the house as well. They should be frisky, friendly, and          accustomed to humans. 
  • Breeder should ask you questions about your home, family and interest in breed. 
  • Expect fixed prices, no bargaining. 

Is there an organization that oversees puppy mills?

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the governing body of the Animal Welfare Act, and is charged with licensing and inspecting breeders, including puppy mills. Each state has its own laws regarding puppy mills. Many puppy breeders get around the laws by selling directly to the consumer or simply avoiding the few USDA inspectors that are on the job. If they are caught, many are happy to pay the fines and continue breeding.

Several states have passed consumer protection laws that specifically address puppies. These laws are called “puppy lemon laws” as in auto sales. If the puppy is defective in any way, the buyer is supposed to be able to return it or get a refund.

Seventeen states have consumer remedies when purchasing certain animals from commercial establishments. The consumer has between seven and twenty days to have the dog or cat checked out by a veterinarian. If the pet is “defective,” refunds or exchanges are the remedy.

Oklahoma is not one of the states. According to www.stoppuppymills.org, Oklahoma does not require licensing or inspection of puppy mills and no agency is charged with oversight.

 Dr. Jones concurs, “Oklahoma lags behind other states, in that it has no legislation at present.The Oklahoma Veterinarian Medical Assoc. (OVMA) is currently at work trying to get legislation passed.”

Dr. Jones, “We hope to do it right, once we do it, rather than pass easily neglected laws as in many states now. We saw what happened with cock fighting in Oklahoma. Certain counties would not stand behind the legislation, even though it was passed.”

According to Dr. Jones, one of the major problems in legislating breeding is how to differentiate between legitimate breeders and puppy mill breeders.

What can you do to help? 

Visit www.stoppuppymills.org

  • Visit your local animal shelters first
  • If you want a specific breed, find the breed-specific rescue group in your city/state. For example: Online, Labrador rescue. You’ll get group locations for each breed.
  • Neuter your pets. Many cities have neutering facilities that are free or very reasonabl
  • Deal with REPUTABLE breeders.
  • Avoid parking lot, classified ads or internet breeders unless they allow you to visit their facilities and investigate their breeding practices.
  • Call your local SPCA to report animal cruelty

Dr. Mike Jones, an OSU graduate, has been a veterinarian for 16 years with the Woodland Pet Care Family.    He’s a past president of the Oklahoma Veterinarian Medical Association (2006) and is currently Medical Director and co-owner of Woodland West Pet Care Facility.

A Study of Animal Shelters in Oklahoma: What are the Numbers?

posted July 15th, 2007 by
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By Ruth Steinberger
 The fate of animals in shelters across Oklahoma remains a hot topic, with euthanasia rates, rescues,
 
 A 2006 survey of all Oklahoma counties, Focus Oklahoma, revealed that the collection, handling, release and disposal of unwanted animals disparate from one area of the state to the next, humane concerns often fall through the cracks and laws intended to protect unwanted animals, including the 1986 Dog and Cat Sterilization Act, are completely ignored throughout much of the state.
Yet, few Oklahomans realize that much of our state is not served by any animal shelter at all. That fact, combined with a lack of record keeping many shelters that do exist, renders a vague and disturbing picture for unwanted animals across much of Oklahoma.

quality of care and methods of euthanasia open to discussion. The issue is an emotionally charged one.

Oklahoma law allows counties with populations over 200,000 to establish an animal shelter. However, currently only five of the 77 Oklahoma counties have a public animal shelter for residents of the entire county. These five include Tulsa, Oklahoma, Washington (Bartlesville), Carter (Ardmore) and Pittsburg (McAllister).

In the remaining 72 counties, some towns have animal control and a shelter, others contract with other towns or private entities to collect unwanted dogs and some simply do nothing. Alfalfa, Dewey, Grant and Harper Counties have no towns or cities with animal shelters within their borders.

However, while roughly 150 cities and towns throughout Oklahoma operate city pounds, residents who live outside of the city limits have noplace at which to release an unwanted dog or cat.  

While it is difficult to get a picture of the accurate number of animals entering Oklahoma shelters, it is impossible to get the numbers of those that fall through these cracks. Limited accurate euthanasia records may be available (based on method, or combination of methods, and therefore payment), but records of animals entering the shelters are actually rare outside of larger municipalities.

Additionally, a 1981 Oklahoma State Court decision exempted cities with populations under 10,000 from the state euthanasia law, essentially upholding the right of these cities to use shooting as a method of killing unwanted dogs, deeming it to be humane. Strong public opinion, and a lack of mandated record keeping, means that many cities simply do not reveal the method they use to dispose of dogs and how many dogs are involved.

The fate of unwanted pets in rural Oklahoma is largely unknown, and often tragic. Jamee Suarez Howard, President of Oklahoma Alliance for Animals said, “We have some idea of the numbers entering shelters. And some idea of how much of the state has no access to shelters. Combined, these numbers show the size of the issue. It is a terrible thing any time that animals are suffering.”

Animal disposal in places without shelters (which includes over half of rural Oklahoma) includesabandonment, shooting, giveaways and drowning. A limited number of “adoptable,” animals go,into private shelters. However, for older, large, sick, or ugly dogs, there is little refuge.  Dogs, and even some cats, are collected by dealers for sale at flea markets or to research labs or animal fighting rings.

Additionally, Focus Oklahoma found that between one third and one half of the estimated 150 municipal facilities collect strays only, refusing owner surrenders.  Outside of large shelters, relatively few public shelters in Oklahoma accept cats.  Without any continuity, people needing to release an unwanted animal call around in desperation, leading to a windfall for some fraudulent organizations that offer inadequate care to the animals in their custody and again, ignore the sterilization mandate for Oklahoma animal shelters.  Additionally, the lack of facilities has caused some public officials to actually rely on unacceptable “rescue” channels, an issue tied to some largescale animal removals in rural Oklahoma in recent years, including notorious ones in Stigler and Vici, Oklahoma.

Disturbingly, Focus Oklahoma research revealed that an estimated less than one fifth of rural shelters comply with the 1986 state law requiring sterilization of animals released from shelters.  Animals are released without mandatory contracts and deposits, without sterilization and with no follow up.

Currently, outside of Tulsa and Oklahoma counties, roughly 51% of Oklahomans live in areas in which public services are provided by the county.

The percentage of people served by municipal animal control facilities varies from one portion of Oklahoma to the next. Southeast Oklahoma has the highest rural population, and the lowest is in the Oklahoma City metro area.

Roughly 64% of households in southeast Oklahoma have no place at which to release an unwanted animal. According to Animal Control Officers in rural areas, county residents typically abandon unwanted pets within town limits at night. Although this activity is against the law in Oklahoma, it is nearly impossible to catch the perpetrator.  According to Mark Harman, Animal Control Officer of Bristow, OK, “Unwanted animals in rural areas never even enter the discussion about shelter animals in our state. They are conveniently invisible. No one is speaking up for them.”

Harman gets calls daily from county residents who have a dog they no longer want or that is a stray. He is not permitted to accept the dogs and advises callers to complain to their county commissioners. He said, “These dogs just disappear from the radar screen and everyone seems to be comfortable with that. Obviously, this has to involve tens of thousands of dogs each year because this lack of services involves half the population of Oklahoma.”

Harman added, “These animals are literally ignored by officials, rescues, humane societies, everyone. If a dog is cute and an adoption fee can change hands, someone will find a place for it. But for the ones that are not cute or small, and that involves most of the calls I get, there is a big blind eye turned toward them. It is unconscionable that our county officials refuse to face this issue.”

In August 2005, Harman received a call from a Creek County woman. An injured stray dog lay in a ditch in front of her home; the temperature was over 100 degrees. Unable to leave city limits Harman tried unsuccessfully for hours to get the sheriff’s office to send out an officer or to locate someone able to euthanize the dog. No one was authorized to go; the dog ultimately remained in the ditch until it died.

Harman pointed out this issue leads to terrible animal suffering or people takingmatters into their own hands and killing animals by inhumane methods. He said, “This is not just an animal control or taxpayer issue;the lack of county wide animal sheltering is a very, very serious humane problem.”

The Dilemma of Homeless Cats

posted January 15th, 2007 by
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Free-roaming cats without owners have recently become the center of a national controversy. Some groups see these animals as victims that should be provided with food and shelter, while others see them as villains that should be eliminated by humane euthanasia. Many of these cats are feral or “wild,” the descendants of unaltered tame cats that were abandoned and gave birth to kittens that never had contact with humans. Although ferals are fearful of humans, they are still domesticated and ill-equipped to live on their own. Feral cats do not die of “old age.” They fall victim to disease, starvation, poisons, attacks by other animals, mistreatment by humans or are hit by cars.

It is estimated that the number of free roaming abandoned and feral cats in the United States may be as high as owned cats (about 73 million). Since most owned cats are sterilized, these unowned cats are the primary source of cat overpopulation. Many people who encounter feral cats start feeding them, but feeding alone can actually make the situation worse by increasing the birth rate of kittens. Animal shelters nationwide receive several million unwanted cats each year. Due to a shortage of available homes, approximately 75% of these cats are euthanized. Locally, the cat euthanasia rate at animal shelters is about 90% and less than 1% of these cats are ever claimed by owners.

The impact of both owned and unowned freeroaming cats upon the environment is an ongoing subject of debate. Even well-fed cats will hunt and kill prey. These predations cause a significant and preventable loss of birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Free-roaming cats pose a small but important threat to human health. They can carry and transmit to humans such diseases as rabies, cat scratch fever, plague, tularemia and ringworm. Also, serious injuries can occur if feral cats are handled without precautions or experience.

Historically, communities have responded to feral cat colonies by capturing and euthanizing these unowned animals. In areas where there is a natural food source (mice), this resulted in the influx of more cats as the resident feral cats were removed. As long as there was a food source, the feral cats would repopulate the area. In areas where feral cats are fed by humans, a strong bond is created with these cats and usually the feral cat feeders will not cooperate with control strategies that involve euthanasia.

Most veterinarians and animal welfare groups now support managing these colonies by trapping, neutering, releasing and monitoring feral cats. The goal is to eventually reduce the feral cat population; however, eliminating the colony may not be possible due to immigration of new cats. Ideally, these colonies should be located in an area where the cats do not pose a threat to wildlife. The location should be inconspicuous so as not to encourage abandonment of pet cats. All cats within the colony are humanely trapped and receive a health exam, tested for feline leukemia and feline AIDS, neutered/spayed and vaccinated against rabies. Socialized adult cats and kittens should be adopted out to permanent homes and those that cannot be adopted should be returned to the colony. Most importantly, a monitoring program must be in place to identify new cats joining the colony, as well as cats requiring medical attention.

Stitch in Time is a local spay/neuter program for feral cats run by Street Cats, a local non-profit organization. Vouchers are issued that will cover a spay or neuter and a rabies vaccination. Over 50 vouchers are issued each month and once issued are good for three months. To receive a voucher call 918-298- 0104 and leave a message for Stitch in Time. Other local organizations that offer feral spay/neuter programs are Spay Oklahoma (918) 728-3144 and PAWS (Pet Assistance and Welfare Society) 918-376-2397.

- Dr. Judy Zinn