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Monday, May 5, 2008

Feline figures: no cash to help cats means hundreds of kittens on city streets each year


Aldermen reject funds to neuter feral cats

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— The Board of Aldermen’s Finance Committee has nearly unanimously declined a request to make feral cat neutering an annual budget line item, but the proponent of the measure says she will not give up.
The Greater New Haven Cat Project uses volunteers and raises money to sterilize and vaccinate hundreds of feral cats each year. In 2001, the group received $10,000 from the city and used it to pay veterinarians to spay, neuter and vaccinate 133 cats.
This year, the aldermen turned down flat the cat project’s request for $5,500, plus the request for an annual line in the city budget.
Yusuf Shah, D-23, Finance Committee chairman, admitted he is “a cat person” and the lone vote in favor of the measure. However, he said, “There are really tight funds this year.”
“You have to control the cat population to protect your own pets and other animals, it’s a public good,” he said of his support for the measure.
Cheryl DeFilippo, cat project president, said her group would be grateful for any city contribution and would persist in trying to get their own budget line item.
“I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have with this organization if I gave up every time somebody said no,” she said.
She said the proposal would benefit the city as well as save money, since sterilizations cost less than euthanasia. The latter practice requires the city to care for the animal seven days to seek an adoptive owner, then pay for the euthanasia and for body disposal.
“The city has to take responsibility. We do our part. We put in a lot of volunteer hours, and the city benefits. The volunteers don’t take any money for their work or money for gas,” DeFilippo said.
Volunteers go to feral cat colonies to trap the cats, bring them to veterinarians, and return them to the colonies or rural land where owners grant permission for them to roam.
Ignoring the problem has serious consequences, she said: A feral cat can add six more cats a year to the feral cat population, which means 50 cats could add 300 feral cats to a colony in one year.
During 2006, the cat project spayed or neutered 121 New Haven feral cats, which could have added up to 726 kittens a year to the city population.
The agency raises money through donations and small, private grants.
“If you don’t like cats and you support us, there will be a lot less cats,” DeFilippo said.
Maria Garriga can be reached at mgarriga@nhregister.com or 789-5726.

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