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A plan to 'fix' local cat overpopulation


It is not uncommon to walk the streets of Carbonear on any given day and see several roaming animals - domestic pets and strays.

These two kittens were born to a feral cat. Ginger (left), his sister Molly (right) and the rest of the litter (not shown) all found homes with the help of the Baccalieu Trail SPCA.

Sometimes these animals get taken in - temporarily and permanently - while others stay on the streets.

Animal lover and local activist Julia Harrington, who has numerous pets of her own, has taken in animals of all types at all different times of the year to ensure an animal has a good temporary home before being placed in a permanent home. But the spring is when she sees an overwhelming number of kittens with nowhere to go.

"As soon as spring comes, the shelters are full, the foster homes are scarce and my phone will ring off the hook with pet owners, who now have kittens who need a home," Harrington explained. "I just don't have an option for them anymore. Only so many homes are available and I have no choice but to suggest to have them euthanized."

She continued, explaining it is a more humane practice than to allow them to live their lives as outside strays, where they will continue to have more kittens without homes.

Promoting the cause

The idea of overpopulation of pets is how Harrington began thinking about getting assistance from residents in the Town of Carbonear. She is hoping to help create a subsidized program that will assist locals to spay or neuter their pets.

"I'm currently looking for some other people to help out with fundraising (and assistance) to help with costs," Harrington said.

The program is something she believes will need the support of council.

"I'm going to be approaching council in the near future in starting up (the) program for this area to help cut down on the amount of cats," she said. "We all know veterinary costs are very expensive. And of course, I want the council's support. Hopefully it will be something other councils will take on for their areas, seeing as St. Johns already offers (it)."

The program Harrington was referring to is the "spay/neuter assistance program" St. John's offers those with low-income households.

It currently gives those with a combined family net income of $25,000 or less, single parent households with $25,000 or less, single people making $15,000 or less and those 65 years and older receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement, the spay and neutering service and license at a discounted rate - $120 for dogs and $85 for cats.

In 2013, the program assisted 229 households with spay/neutering services, up from 96 in 2009.

Harrington said the program would only need some financial assistance from the town, the rest could be organized by volunteers.

Income shouldn't be an issue

Fellow animal lover Kristy Reynolds has joined the cause.

"I think that the spay and neuter program is an amazing idea and well needed in this area," she told The Compass.

She supports the idea, not just for population control, but because she believes income does not determine if someone can be a good pet owner.

"Some people think you cannot be a good parent to animals if you cannot afford to get them (spayed or neutered)," she continued. "But (those of lower income) love and spoil them so much, and care for them more than anyone could imagine. Any help would beat trying to do it on your on in a fixed or lower income situation.

"In the end, we will have less strays roaming around, getting hurt and carrying infection, and more healthy fur babies to love and appreciate."

Harrington agrees that income should not delegate if someone gets a pet.

"I don't think it's a fair assumption to say, 'if you can afford a pet, don't get one,' because I know extreme animal lovers who are on fixed incomes who make the best owners," she explained.

Other options

Outside the potential assistance program, there are other options for pet owners who would like to have their pets spayed or neutered, but also if someone is looking to give up, foster or adopt a pet.

Laura-Lee Hiscock - operator of the local chapter of the SPCA - said there are many residents that are unaware there is a chapter available on the Baccalieu Trail or the services it provides.

"Sometimes there's a misconception that if (pet owners) are calling the SPCA, their animals are going to be put to sleep," she explained. "That's the last resort."

The SPCA has been very successful in the area, Hiscock said, noting most animals that have made their way to the organization have either been fostered or adopted. Only a few have been euthanized, mainly due to illness.

Cat Concerns Inc. is an organization in Conception Bay North that has joined forces with the SPCA to assist in spaying and neutering cats. They offer a lower rate for those who cannot afford the full price of having the procedure done.

The organizations are fundraising for a shelter in the area because they do not have a physical location for animals. The SPCA even works with other shelters in the province if a foster or adopted home isn't found right away.

Hiscock stresses for people to research their options, or contact the SPCA, before getting rid of their pet or having them put down.

"Anyone who wants information can contact us with questions on animals," she said.

Hiscock can be reached at btspca@hotmail.com or through the Facebook page Baccalieu Trail SPCA.

"We are always open to new people and new foster homes," she added.

Melissa.jenkins@tc.tc

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