An update on past news

Saturday, June 23, 2001

Animal CARE Foundation
aims to control
feral cat population

Question: What ever happened to the $10 million grant to control the city's feral cat population?

Answer: The Animal CARE Foundation has received $60,000 in commitments that would go toward matching a $10 million grant for a neutering program for feral cats, according to founder and president Sabina Wenner.

An anonymous out-of-state donor promised the grant in February 2000 if matching funds were found. Wenner said part of the funds would also be used for educating the public about the necessity of trapping untamed, homeless cats, neutering or sterilizing them, and releasing instead of euthanizing them.

The foundation has not received any grant money yet because of the requirement to obtain matching funds, but "it's a start," she said of the latest financial commitments.

City Councilman Andy Mirikitani has lent the most assistance in obtaining $20,000 of city money that has yet to be released, and the other $40,000 has been promised by the Barbara Cox Anthony Foundation, she said.

But CARE has continued its own efforts with about 30 volunteers, up from about five to 15 last year, to reduce the feral cat population, Wenner said. CARE has taken in close to 1,000 cats that were sick, injured or abandoned when young in the past year. They were all neutered or spayed, and most were placed in homes.

Only about 10 feral cats were released into the neighborhoods in which they were caught after being sterilized, Wenner said.

The public should not expect results in decreasing the cat population this year or in the next six months, because the problem "didn't happen overnight," she said.

"We are not going to see a serious dent for five to 10 years, but we can make progress every year. Nongrowth is progress; so is a small percentage drop yearly. It's the only way we're going to solve it, but we really need to give it some time to work," she said.

The commonly used practice of trapping and killing cats is just a short-term solution that backfires in the end because one to five years later, "you always have a rebound," Wenner said.

If the population of a colony is made smaller as the result of trapping and killing, the remaining unsterilized cats nearly double their population because a food source is still available, she explained.

However, if cats are sterilized and returned to their colonies, the animals in the colony don't allow outside cats near their food source and do not reproduce with them, according to Wenner.

Gary Gill, deputy health director for Environmental Health Services, said, "Advocates of cats' rights believe the most efficient, humane method is to trap (neuter) and release cats," allowing cat colonies to develop and tending to them wherever they may be. But "a high density of cats has a human health impact," he said.

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