2016-03-10 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

OPERATION EDISON was kept under wraps but wasn’t top secret. This cat code name contains a double entendre about a mission and surgery. Now that the first attempt is complete, our cat code name signifies a local triumph in how to perform TNR (trap/ neuter/return) on-site to help stop the rampant reproduction of feral cats.

On Sat., March 5, a united team of Last Hope Animal Rescue of Wantagh, All About Spay Neuter (AASN) of Massapequa and Babylon Animal Shelter resulted in an on-site TNR clinic where 44 cats from a West Babylon industrial area (near Edison Avenue) were spay/neutered, vaccinated, flea and ear mite-treated, plus given pain meds inside a mobile hospital parked at the shelter. Some cats received dentistries; all received TLC. The surgery marathon inside the van lasted 12 hours, non-stop. However, preparation and trapping beforehand and at least five days after-care for the female cats makes OPERATION EDISON a more ambitious project.

Operation Edison Operation Edison We’re extending special thanks to Dr. Diane Levitan for the use of her Helping Paws veterinary van, to tireless and talented Dr. L. Gay Senk and Dr. Deborah Lupo- Lyons; incredible vet techs, Sarah, Penny and Diana; a skilled contingent of on-site volunteers; recovery expert, Jenny; site host, cat chauffeur and clinic financier via the BAARC board, Chris Elton, Babylon Shelter director; Last Hope prez, Linda Stuurman and AASN prez Joanne Monez for promoting the project and a remarkable group of 15 patient trappers who were out many evenings gathering the cats.

Industrial areas and shelter grounds are notorious cat dumping spots. Usually both are deserted when the buildings are closed so the culprits make a clean getaway. Callous people have left mothers with kittens in open boxes outside shelters as if they’d wait there until the shelter opens again. These feline discards continue to breed. One or two turn into a feral colony quickly. Many factories have individual colonies. The management sets the tone about whether the business will feed and shelter the cats, and whether the employees are allowed to embrace the TNR concept as a way to control population and further suffering.

Several kind people have fed cats in the Edison area during the wee hours of the night for years. They’ve attempted to keep numbers manageable with TNR but the problem has gotten too big for them to handle alone. Altered ferals returned to their colonies are marked with ear tips. The left ear is cut slightly at a 45 degree angle as the universal sign the cat is spayed or neutered. This prevents caretakers from intentionally trapping that cat again.

To estimate how many intact ferals were roaming the

Edison area, volunteers shadowed the late-night feeders and counted cats without ear tips. They found out where the colonies really were. Jenny and Doreen, who spent months at Frontier Trailer Park in N. Amityville, dealing with residents giving mixed messages and trapping cats there, visited the Edison vicinity businesses and spoke to managers for permission to trap. The informal census totaled 100 cats needing spay/neuter which would require two days on the van with additional vets for the Sunday surgeries. Instead, fewer than half the total was caught, and one extended day of surgeries took care of all the cats.

Various obstacles kept the trappers from getting all the cats in need. Tops on the list were feeders who continued to provide tons of food, even roast chicken, despite trappers’ requests to stop feeding temporarily so the cats would be hungry and venture into the trap for a meal.

A heated pod with tables was set up at an undisclosed location to hold and tend to cats after they were trapped and to recover cats after spay/ neuter. Cats were schlepped back and forth from pod to the hospital van. Some rescue volunteers can be quite testy. They think they know more than veterinarians. Several criticized the van medical protocol and the pod as recovery area. They were asked to stay home. To paraphrase the graphic adage: “There are many ways to spay a cat.”

OPERATION EDISON was organized carefully. Each trap was numbered, tagged with a description and blue tape with a street location. Once the cats are anesthetized their paw is tagged too so the right cat goes back in the right carrier, and eventually to the correct colony. Syringes with the sedation combo called “Kitty Magic,” reversal drug to wake the cat (if needed), as well as rabies and distemper vaccines were in a pre-packaged, numbered baggie with a checklist for other procedures like ear-tipping and surgical notes. Often the sex of the cat is unknown until the cat is shaved. A master list matched the tags.

Space is tight on the van. There is one operating room with two tables. Cats are sedated in the traps, and moved carefully to the operating table. Another station is for shaving, tagging, vaccines and ear tips. The sink has an autoclave to re-sterilize instruments. The back room can hold up to 25 cats that are waking up in their traps. A trio of feisty kittens will stay with AASN for further socialization. The adult males were returned to their colonies last Sunday because their neuter is non-invasive. 23 females will recuperate in the pod about four more days before being returned or taken into foster.

Even though the total TNR goal was higher, OPERATION EDISON was a success in terms of compassion and cooperation. 44 fewer cats will be adding kittens to the over-population glut and life on these mean streets, plus those cats altered on March 5 should have a healthier and more peaceful existence from now on.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) W. Babylon: “Harriet” 16-83 is a female German Shepherd dog found as a stray while “Tyke” 6-9 is a pretty calico. She and several of her calico sisters are in the Cat Colony at the shelter.

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