The February 14 meeting of No Kill Colorado was held in Lakewood and focused on feral cat Trap/Neuter/Return programs and featured guest speakers Dr. Angelina Piccoli, Founder of SpayToday, and Ms. Sherri Leggett, Director of Feline Fix (formerly the Rocky Mountain Alley Cat Alliance).
The meeting started off with some interesting statistics provided by the US Humane Society. There are approximately 23 million people in the US who are actively looking to add a pet to their household. Of these, four million people adopted pets from animal shelters and approximately 2 million people purchased pets either from breeders or pet shops. That leaves 17 million people who are undecided about whether to purchase a pet or adopt one from a shelter. No Kill Colorado says that if three million of these people choose adoption, they can succeed in bringing about a 90% live release rate in shelters nationwide. That’s one in five people.
The first guest speaker, Dr. Piccoli, spoke about the reasons why people do and do not spay and neuter their pets. In the state of Colorado, those households making $35,000 or more spay and neuter their pets at a rate of 90% rate. However, for homes making less than $35,000 (considered the poverty level) that number is less than 10%. Cost is the main reason for not having a pet altered. If people below poverty level are given the opportunity to spay and neuter, they chose to do so, but simply do not have the funds. Dr. Piccoli founded SpayToday to provide low-cost spay and neuters to this underserved portion of the population. There are currently 1.5 million families in Denver near the proverty level.
Located in Lakewood, SpayToday helps the overcrowding of shelters in the Denver metro area providing neutering services to dogs, cats and rabbits. SpayToday’s mission is to give every family, shelter and rescue organization access to high quality services at an affordable cost. Visit the SpayToday website for more information.
Ms. Leggett focused on trap-neuter-return or TNR programs for feral cats. Feral cats are cats that have grown up without human contact. However, many feral cat colonies may contain cats who have been abandoned by their owners or simply left their homes. Many people do not understand how feral cat communities work and think they are a detriment to neighborhoods. Leggett points out three common myths about feral cats:
- 1) Feral cats spread disease to humans and other cats
- 2) They have short lifespans
- 3) Removing the cats solves the problem
When it comes to spreading disease, cases of transmitting disease to humans is extremely rare. However, it can happen between cats, especially when house cats come into contact with feral cats, but getting an indoor cat vaccinated will prevent disease. As for short life spans, Leggett says feral cats can live up to 15 years, a longer lifespan than most people think (the average indoor-only house cat can live 16-18 years). Finally, removing cats does not solve the problem.
“[The area] It’s their home. It’s what they know,” she says. Even if feral cats are removed, other cats will take their place. She says the cats enter an area because there is a viable living environment for them with shelter and food. That is why TNR programs work.
“TNR is the most reliable method with the lowest cost.”
TNR programs help communities in many ways. Neutering reduces bad behavior among feral cats such as fighting and wailing. Neutering the cats means there will be fewer kittens making the colony easier to manage. She also reminds us that feral cats do serve a purpose by ridding neighborhoods of rodents. Remove the cats and rodent populations will increase.
“The cost to neuter a cat is $30 to $50. Putting a cat in a shelter costs $75 to $150,” she says.
Leggett and Feline Fix are currently working with the City of Denver to establish where existing cat colonies are located and monitor their numbers. They will do this one zip code at a time. They are currently working in the 80205 zip code and it is estimated that zip code alone has over 7,000 feral cats. To keep the colony manageable, Feline Fix needs to spay or neuter at least 80% of the population.
Founded in 1991 Feline Fix is a Colorado non-profit organization that operates TNR programs and is a member of the Metro Denver Shelter Alliance. They offer low cost spay and neuter surgeries throughout Denver for tame, stray and feral cats. To learn more about their TNR programs, visit their website. To learn how to care for a feral cat colony, attend one of their monthly workshops
No Kill Colorado was organized in 2012 to stop the euthanization of tens of thousands of healthy pets in Colorado shelters every year. The Colorado organization is based on the national No Kill Nation movement. Currently 90 shelters serving over 300 communities in the United States call themselves No Kill. A No Kill animal shelter is one that has a live release rate of at least 90% of the animals in its care and only puts down those animals too injured, sick or hostile to be rehabilitated. No Kill Colorado helps by providing strategies, programs and support to area shelters. Just recently No Kill Colorado achieved non-profit status.
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