Trap-Neuter-Release Program pushes on with dwindling funds
Wed, 10/14/2020 - 8:53am caleb
Crawford County Animal Control works at curbing the feral cat population
Kinzie Nena | Staff Writer
Crawford County Animal Control has been proceeding with a Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program to address the continued presence of feral or community cats in the area. While the national average is estimated to be in the tens of millions, many communities opt to use inhumane methods to control feral cat populations according to ASPCA.org.
“The feral cat population seems to be very large. I get calls almost daily regarding cats and kittens being found or abandoned,” said Animal Control Officer Kari Sieniarecki, who has been handling the TNR program with a $5,000 grant with an additional $2,000 that was gifted for this program.
“The funding is about gone, will be by this week I believe. We were lucky enough to receive [a grant],” said Sieniarecki.
“The program is not intended for cats of the general public. It is for the feral cats only,” said Sieniarecki.
While the TNR program focuses entirely on the feral cat population it is still encouraged to spay/neuter your cats. Sieniarecki reported that over 100 feral cats have been spayed/nuetered and released in Crawford County through the program.
Officer Sieniarecki works closely with Lanise Rutter, a local resident who has been housing cats overnight during their recovery from surgery, bottle feeding kittens, and helping socialize kittens for rehoming or adoption, according to Sieniarecki.
Feral or community cats do not go to animal shelters as these cats are not adoptable because of their outdoor upbringing, which makes them unpredictable as they can have wild, shy and frightened behavior, according to ASPCA.org.
The ASPCA has begun to refer to feral cats as “community cats” defined as cats outdoor, unowned, and free-roaming. By definition the only cats who are not “community cats” are those that have an owner, according to ASPCA.org.
“Feral cats from the Crawford County area only are trapped, neutered, and released in the exact area it was trapped. All adult cats have been released. The only exceptions is the few litters of kittens that have been too tiny to survive alone without mom,” said Sieniarecki.
With the program’s funding dwindling and continued support needed, Sieniarecki is looking into potential help from the community, from fundraising ideas, to donations, to help the process.
“It would be great to get ideas from people of the community about any fundraising, or ideas they may have so we can continue. Pop cans are being accepted to help with additional spay/neuters, feed, litter, and any medical costs that may occur,” Sieniarecki said.
“I am open to suggestions for further funding and fundraising,” Sieniarecki said.
She also listed donations that would be appreciated for future TNR programs, which would include kitten food, kitten formula, cat food, litter, towels, and blankets.
The Grayling Hospital for Animals has offered Animal Control a great deal for the program, and has even worked with veterinary students from Michigan State University to help with surgeries, according to Sieniarecki.
“Feral cats feed on songbirds, other small wildlife, and can decimate bird populations. They aren’t just eating trash and getting into garbage. They will change the whole ecosystem,” said Doctor Barbara Craig of the Grayling Animal Hospital.
The Grayling Hospital For Animals works with veterinary schools across the country to do externships where students travel to different clinics and hospitals to complete training. They gain real world knowledge with veteran doctors like retired Doctor Paul Mesack, who came out of retirement to help mentor three veterinary students during this TNR program, according to Craig.
“This program is for the feral cat population, not owned cats. The feral cat issue doesn’t stop at the county line,” said Craig.
While the goal of the TNR program is to control the population of community cats, they also try to make sure that the cats are given rabies shots to protect colonies and humans. The cats that have been neutered or spayed are “ear-tipped”, where a quarter of an inch of the tip of the cats ear is surgically cut. Having these markers is important for future TNR programs to not waste time trapping cats that are already spayed and neutered, according to Craig.
"It is very important to have all community cats spayed/neutered because it is the only 100-percent-effective way to prevent unwanted kittens,” said Aimee Christian, ASPCA Vice President of Spay/Neuter Operations.
There are many resources and more information available online at ASPCA.org to aid those who would like to help with the community cat population. For more ways to help with the feral and community cat population and donations, you can contact the Animal Control office at (989) 344-3273.