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Li’l Help With TNR?

Here's the situation: 20-30 cats, the majority of whom are black, and many of whom are tiny kittens, live in an abandoned building next to our gorgeous Community Foundation building in the downtown area of West Palm Beach, a block from the Intracoastal (the waterway between West Palm Beach and the island of Palm Beach). When you drive into the parking lot, you have to be very careful not to hit one as they're just milling about.

Upon asking, I was told that there were two failed attempts at TNR, but I'm not sure what that means and will investigate further today. Someone told me the cats are the City's responsibility (the City of West Palm Beach). I have no idea if that's true. A colleague from the documentary project is happy to do some of the work (she lives nearby and I don't), but I have no idea where to start.

Before I do the research myself (Alley Cat Allies?), I thought it best to simply ask you what I need to do. Do I need permission of any kind? Where do I get the traps? Is 20-30 cats a lot? Do I have to coordinate with the City? Should I just raise some money to pay for one of those mobile spay/neuter rigs? Nanci Alexander of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida was going to be my first call, but I just found out that for financial reasons she had to cut the program and she has donated the truck to PETA. I already called two local "humane societies" who said they don't do that work (they do, however, kill animals, as neither is a no-kill). How much does this cost? How many people do I need?

Li'l help?

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Deb #

    Take my advice for what it is worth, given that I don't have direct experience myself, but at the AR conference last year I heard a presentation by someone who recommended "TNR+", which I'd definitely recommend in general, but probably especially in a place like FL. (primary addition for the "+" is that you don't leave food unattended, so you bring the food, and take what might be leftover after 15 or 20 minutes. Limits other animals from coming around, which tends to anger "the public" as well as put the cats themselves in more danger.)

    Traps can usually be rented, if you're not sure you want to buy one. Rich rented one to use to trap smoke, but that there was a place to rent one might have something to do with him being in NYC. I think you can purchase them online, but others will know more about that.

    Friends of Animals has a link to low-cost spay/neuter places for TNR work. Even in fairly remote places, there are usually spay/neuter clinics for cheaper-than-normal, so I imagine you'll be able to find one there.

    I think one person is enough to maintain one colony, as long as they can do it every day. Having someone in the wings as backup is good too. It will be easier IMO to get things under control if you have more people to start out with, but Neva and her husband are proof that it takes only one or two.

    If the kittens are young enough, they can likely find homes off the streets, so you might want to line up potential fosterers if you want to go that route.

    It is a long-term committment, taking care of a feral colony, so having more than one person might help avoid burnout…

    October 30, 2008
  2. I haven't done much myself aside from catching and neutering the occasional stray. When I was a kid, my mom helped manage a large feral colony. She did it as part of a group and they took turns filling the feeding stations with food and water and every so often they'd set out the traps to catch a few and get 'em fixed. I think the way they did it was they set up a small non-profit org and let people donate to help cover the costs of all the food and such. The negotiated with vets to get reduced cost neutering. And whenever they found a cat that was "tame" or on the edge of being tame, they'd try to find a home for the cat. It was a TON of work and as you can imagine, there were plenty of arguments and burn-out. My mom did it for ten years or so before finally quitting. The colony still exists. it's a dumping ground – people who don't want their cats anymore bring them there, so whenever they finally get them all fixed, someone dumps another cat, often a pregnant female or a whole batch of kittens.

    If you're going to take this on, I say just dive in. You'll learn along the way.

    October 30, 2008
  3. Bea Elliott #

    Mary, I'm probably giving advice you already have or know already… but it's all I've got. Could you try contacting local county/city officials to see if they have any traps/cages they could lend out? If not I'd try the paper/Craig's list and any "thrift stores" first. I'd also consider having a benefit-fund raiser in the way of a yard sale. If you had 4 or 5 people who could get donations from 10 or so people it might raise enough money/awareness to make it all happen. In any event – it's quite a (generous) task you're up against. Best of luck to you…

    A little off track but it's conincidental that you mentioned ARFF. I just sent an email to them with this link from the Cattlemen site which names Nanci Alexander as one of their top 5 adversaries. ARFF knew exactly what I meant when I said "nice job" 🙂

    October 31, 2008
  4. I'm sorry I'm a bit late with this. I've been trying to avoid the whole "internet" thing for a bit and have really only been checking emails over the past few days.

    I do have experience with feral cats/kittens and trying to save them. My ex-wife and I saved "most" of a feral cat/kitten colony about 8 years ago. There was an old antique store near where we were living at the time that burned down to the ground. It was located next a a gas station where we often filled up. There were about 20 cats/kittens living amid the ruins. We would only see them after dark (as for the most part…"true" feral cats will usually not come out during the day). If these cats and kittens are out and about during the day…and are used to humans…it will make your job much easier.

    We got two "humane" raccoon traps from Home Depot. We bought cans of sardines (the "stinky" fish foods work best) and went there almost every single night…after midnight…for two months. The traps need to be set apart in the areas because when the others hear a cat "trapped" they run like bloody murder. It's only because of their hunger that we were able to get the majority over that time period. If ONE single male or female pair is left…even as sibblings…it will start all over again. Within a year there will be 10 or more as part of their "herd" living there again. We took each and every single one, in their "traps" to a low cost spay and neuter clinic. The kittens were taken to a rescue facility. The younger you can get them, the better. Once the are over 3 or four months old, they truly start to "fear" any human contact.

    If these cats/kittens are out during the day, it means they're truly not feral. That's a good thing. It means that they are most likely adoptable. If they are older…they will most likely never accept humans.

    The traps need to be set under cars or under any protective area. Sometimes just being against a wall will help. They can never be just out in the open. If they are, they will examine the traps, but never go inside.

    Before you go and get traps, the FIRST thing you need to do is have a rescue group willing to take the adoptable ones (mostly the kittens)…and those that are not adoptable need to be released back in the same place they lived (after they are spayed and neutered). If you just drop them off in another place..they will run and run and run. They crave companionship, so it's safer in an urban area if they don't run all over the place looking for their old friends and family.

    I'd get the traps if I was you…or at least buy them for those willing to take the time to go there in the middle of the night. Let the city/county know what your plans are first….since I lived in Florida for a while back (and like you…in Palm Beach County)…I know that they'll give you crap unless they know what you're up to first.

    Wish I still knew people involved in rescue down there to be of more assistance. I knew the "grand poo-bah" of the Florida Humane Society who lived in Jupiter. She did all her rescue days where I lived at the time in Boca Raton. Though she lived on a 26 acre "estate" given to her by a member back then….and she also(the grand poo bah that is )…had dogs running around killing one another)…. she/it was not a good thing. I don't know if you were living there in 2000…or if she still lives there. If you were, and she does, you'll probably know of whom I speak.

    Good luck…


    November 5, 2008
  5. I've been working with feral cat colonies in San Francisco for almost 7 years now. It is my opinion that TNR or trap-neuter-release is the most compassionate solution for all of the homeless kitties out there in the world. As you mentioned, most shelters will euthanize "feral" cats even if they are a no-kill shelter. Most SPCA facilities will lend traps free of charge and/or with a small refundable deposit. Many of the same facilities will spay and neuter free of charge for ferals. Once the kitties are spayed/neutered they will need a couple of days of recovery. In an extra room or warm garage, you can keep them in the traps after surgery and place water, food and a small litter box inside while they recoup. Placing a towel or sheet over the trap will help calm the cat and make them feel more secure. Once they have healed, you can release them back where you found them. However once they are released, it will take a group of individuals to feed them on a regular basis and make sure they are doing ok. I've know many ferals to live 10+ years out on their own, but this only works when there is constant care given to these guys. I agree this is not ideal for any cat, but the alternative is a horrible alternative.

    If a cat is caught when they are young, there is a good chance through socialization they will make a good adoptable cat. I have even placed older feral cats in homes with much success. They may never be a lap cat, but they will adapt to a safer and warm environment…it just takes time and patience.

    Ally Cat Allies is a good resource. Get some friends to help you out if you decide to take this on. You probably won't get them all at once, which is ok. Be diligent. The only way to stop cats from being abandoned and having more kitties is to have them spayed and neutered, even if it is one cat at a time. You can contact me privately if you would like any more information. I'd be happy to help. Good luck!

    November 6, 2008
  6. Mary,
    I figured I'd follow up and see how you're making out on this. I'm sure the kitties are still out there (unless you or someone has taken the time, the blood, the sweat,and the tears involved to try and finally save them).

    I took the time myself today to look up "all" the low cost (or free)spay and neuter services down there. It took about 8 seconds to find this link. Here's a good site to contact all of them:

    Either way, I'm sure a local vet could work out a deal. How about the husband and wife vets you spoke of in another post? Though they're not vegan, I'm SURE they would surely help…no?

    I do hope SOMEONE is actually taking the time to check in on them, feed them…and hopefully save them. They, like ALL homeless animals that can't fend for themselves, deserve the right to be adopted out and to have a happy life. BE it from a shelter or one from the street…ALL of these animals need homes. The average life of a feral cat is less than 2 years. Time moves forward and is ticking. Can you please update me (us) on this situation?

    November 9, 2008
  7. David,
    I've already contacted all of them in my area, and that list is misleading, as the spay shuttle is closed for now, peggy adams' animal rescue league won't do ferals, the palm beach organization only deals with palm beach and not west palm (and is involved in a lawsuit and is currently not doing anything), the animal rights foundation of florida donated their pay shuttle to PETA, and that leaves safe harbor, for $55/cat, which is where I started (and if the Pahokee place opened for $15, even though it's a crazy drive, the price is right). As for local vets, I have called a handful and none will do ferals (let alone low-cost). Everyone refers me to safe harbor.
    The safe harbor idea is actually fine with me, except I'm not the person with the traps who is experienced in that. I can pick them up and they can stay in my Element in my garage while they heal, if worse comes to worst. The new group that doesn't have its 501c3 yet hasn't gotten back to me about the details. I said I would pick up and care for and pay for up to 4 cats/week for a bit, but I certainly would rather have help. The cats are well fed, but of course multiplying and I have no idea how many there are. They aren't in a dangerous area, thank heavens. The women who started the new group said the reality is that she has received calls about approximately 300 cats in the past few months, and she has NO money (hence I said I'd pay) so she isn't doing anything right now. I'm hoping my offer will change that.

    Someone is organizing the people in the foundation building for me (he said that last week). The need to be educated and I'm happy to be the person to do that.

    The Treasure Coast Humane Society, which is 20 miles from me so over 35 miles from the cats is another possibility. No one has agreed to pick up the cats and drive them to me (it's too far, they all say), so there's no way they're driving them even farther north.

    November 9, 2008
  8. Someone needs to just go get their "hands dirty" and put their words into action. The problem will not go away. It will get worse each and every day. This I can say: If I still lived even in Boca… I'd go start saving them and drive up in the middle of the night. I really would. One by one… I'd save them before they get ran over by a car, or some moron abuses them. Nobody ever reimbursed me for the money I spent "fixing" the ones I saved. That was never even an issue. Nobody else helped. I took the matter into my own hands. Sometimes that just what one needs to do. I hope that someone gets out there and starts saving them…I really do…

    November 9, 2008

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