Newport News, VA – PetSmart Charities has just awarded Newport News Animal Services a $95,465 grant to help them start a feral cat TNR program. NNAS plans to perform 1,700 spay/neuter surgeries of feral cats over a two year period, purchase equipment, and prepare outreach materials. Cats going through the surgery will be spayed/neutered, ear tipped, and vaccinated.
Atiya Pope, the Superintendent of NNAS said “In the past we were trapping and removing feral cats. Over the years we realized we were trapping more and more cats and not really reducing the number. We have been introduced by alley cat allies to TNVR.” She added that with the new PetSmart Charities grant NNAS can now implement a Trap Neuter Vaccinate and Return program.
The new approach doesn’t just involve TNR, Pope has also started a volunteer Newport News Feral Cat Coalition group. These are regular people that are trained to educate the public about feral cats and help them coexist together. When people call asking for to remove the cats, the most common complaint is that they are defecating in flower beds. “The public that don’t have pets are not as cold and mean hearted as people think they are, they just want to be heard,” said Pope. “If we show them that we take them seriously and they have valid complaints and they see somebody come out and really try to take care of [the problem], they’re pretty impressed and willing to let us trap and neuter and relocate feeding stations instead of just wanting [the cats] gone.”
Newport News has a city ordinance requiring feral cat colonies to be registered with NNAS. Pope explained this is to make sure that the colonies have a regular caretaker that will provide them with food, water, and shelter on a regular basis. The NNFCC volunteers also work with these people to get them registered, TNR their colonies, remove kittens young enough to tame, and help them set up proper shelters for the cats.
The program is still in its infancy, and NNAS just received the last of their equipment yesterday. However, in the last three weeks, 6 registered colonies have participated and 23 animals have been TNR’d. More help is needed from the citizens of Newport News to make this program a success. Volunteers with many different skills and interests are needed. People that want to learn how to become trappers and help educate the public, people that are good with carpentry to help build the cat shelters, and people with marketing skills to help reach diverse populations are just a few of the different types of people Pope is hoping will volunteer for NNAS. Pope says there are lots of things that “a willing person with a kind heart can do.” Interested people can attend the volunteer information sessions the second Saturday of every month at Riverview Farm Park Visitor Center from 1:30 – 2:30. The next session is this Saturday, March 12.
People are also needed to foster the young kittens that will be removed from these colonies and later put up for adoption. This can be a great way for someone to get their kitten fix in without the long term commitment that adopting a cat requires. It’s also a fun way for parents to teach their children how to be better stewards of animals and help them understand the importance of spaying/neutering. It takes a special person to be able to help an animal grow into a healthy, loving pet, and then give that animal up to its new forever home. It’s something that’s hard to do, but it also leaves a warm feeling knowing that an animal was given a second chance at life because there was a foster parent willing to help.
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