Project Treadstone: An Unbelievable Lesson
It took me a couple of weeks to get to the bottom of the odd behavior of some of the rescue people regarding my accidental endeavor to trap, neuter and return a couple dozen feral cats around the Community Foundation building in West Palm Beach. I couldn't understand why it was all so cloak and dagger. Trap the damn cats, bring them to the vet, pay, allow them to recuperate, return them. Done. Easy, right?
At first, it appeared that the cat people were the problem. And though they're not without their quirks (I should talk), the real problem, which is somewhat understandable, lies at the feet of the veterinarians. Here are the facts of the case, which for all I know are quite common and play out in communities around the country:
- There are thousands of feral cats (says the experts) in our county.
- Animal Care and Control's Spay Shuttle hasn't been working and there is no date for its work to resume. The package was $15/cat and didn't include testing for FeLV or FIV. There is a satellite office in the Western Communities area of the county (45 minutes from the cats, an hour from me), but it too is not up and running. Net message? No low-cost spay and neuter available in Palm Beach County.
- The island of Palm Beach is its own world, has its own program, and is funded 50% by the Town of Palm Beach and 50% by donations. It has a trapper who works 6 days/ week. Two vets do their work, one of whom is on the island, the other is across the Intracoastal, in Lake Worth, which is a town in the City of West Palm Beach. She will work only with the Palm Beach Cat organization (Palm Beach Cats). In other words, unless the cat was trapped by Palm Beach Cats, she won't offer the feral package. And Palm Beach Cats will trap only on Palm Beach. See the problem?
- Onward. I called multiple vets and was met with one of two responses: we don't do ferals, or, we do, and the cost is $80 and includes testing and we'll kill all cats who test positive. The only exception is the place that will do it for $55.
- Then there's my vet, whom I called to basically give him a guilt trip and get him to help. But as it turns out, he already has a deal for 2 cats/week with a local coalition. And there's a woman who decides which 2 cats will get fixed each week. I discovered all of this when I got "bumped" for the next three weeks by other TNR efforts in the North County area. There's another vet, further south, who services that area (note: not me and the West Palm cats), so it's entirely possible that a total of 4 feral cats are being sterilized per week in Palm Beach County (not counting the Town of Palm Beach). That's ludicrous.
- I can take 5 cats at a time, one county north of me, about an hour away, for $24/males, $34/females and no testing. I can do this at least once/month. Trapping 5 should be interesting. And the four hours it will eat of my day will be fun, as no one else is willing to do that part. But I might be reduced to that.
Here's what enrages me: the vets won't provide a low-cost option, basically because they won't be making any money and, let's face it, they're in business to make money. So I understand their reasoning, yet I'm very frustrated with it. Just do the sterilization and a shot or two and don't test, then! Alley Cat Allies has been saying that all along!