2016-04-21 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Do the right thing, Islip Town Board. Islip remains the only Town in Nassau or Suffolk without a feral cat spay/ neuter assistance program for residents. April is the start of kitten season. As Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter and the Council continue to procrastinate and resist, hundreds of kittens will be born each day in Islip, from now through November, to suffer an outside existence. These kittens will breed hundreds more because the Town is doing nothing as the local feline population explodes exponentially.

Last fall- more than seven months ago- feral cat advocates from Shelter Link, Almost Home, Last Hope plus independent cat caretakers began the latest effort to convince Islip Town Board to do the right thing. We spoke at the September Town Board meeting and several subsequent ones. Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt is the only supportive and helpful member of the Town Board.

Since September, Rita Schrecongost from Shelter Link met twice with Islip officials, including James Heil, commissioner of Environmental Control. Rita offered guidance, offered grant writing, offered to set up meetings with rescues experienced helping municipalities with TNR (Trap/ Neuter/Return) programs. Seven months was enough time to implement a small Islip TNR pilot program before the 2016 kitten season began.

Reminding Islip Town Hall about the importance of Town feral cat spay/neuter programs. Reminding Islip Town Hall about the importance of Town feral cat spay/neuter programs. Sad to report there’s been no progress at all. Rita was told the Town cannot set up a TNR program because “it is illegal to spend taxpayers’ money on animals not at the shelter.” This is puzzling since surrounding LI towns have TNR programs for their residents, and these towns have not been cited for breaking the law. Rita asked for clarification on that law and received none. In reality, NYS Agriculture & Markets law (Sec. 116) allows towns to spay/neuter dogs and cats. Towns can use tax money but not dog licensing fees toward the spay/neuter of cats.

We’d also respond TNR programs are a proactive way for municipal animal shelters to save money because by preventing kitten births, the respective town is reducing cat intake as well as care and euthanasia costs. However, for the last decade under Islip Shelter supervisor Joanne Daly who was fired or forced to retire in March (still waiting for an announcement by Islip Town), few cats or kittens were put up for adoption. For a long time there was a note taped to the shelter door saying cats were not being accepted.

Islip Town sends out mixed messages. In March we were told there’d be a vote on an Islip feral program after that Board meeting. The vote didn’t happen. Then we were told the vote, or at least a discussion of a vote, would be during the April 19th evening Town Hall meeting. It is not on the agenda. (Note: This “Pets” was written on April 17th.)

Let’s backtrack to Islip Shelter past. During the decades Matt Carraciolo was Islip Shelter director until he retired in 2007, I could print positive things about the shelter. Matt had vision before any other LI Town had a feral program. His idea was to place a trailer, outfitted as a small veterinary clinic next to the shelter to be used as a spay/ neuter clinic for ferals Town residents trapped for TNR. That trailer exists but it was never utilized that way, mainly because his successor, Ms. Daly, objected.

Islip already has an ideal set-up. All they need to do now is staff and supply the idle trailer as a public outreach feral clinic, and devise a voucher program.

Now let’s move next door. Babylon Town has over 100,000 fewer residents than Islip, yet Babylon lent out their supply of 40 humane traps and issued low cost and free vouchers to residents who then spay/neutered more than 525 feral cats in 2015, while Islip helped zero ferals and zero residents. Move further west-for part of 2015, Hempstead Town spay/ neutered approximately 100 feral cats each week, lent out traps and even assisted citizens with trapping.

Town government must be an integral component in alleviating feral overpopulation. Otherwise the entire burden falls on non-profit rescues and individual citizens. Neither can keep up with the numbers Islip’s neglect has created over the years, such as the cats in industrial areas by Veterans Highway or those left behind at the abandoned Hostess factory in Bohemia. Four years ago Last Hope spay/neutered and provided caretakers for at least 100 cats fending for themselves on Hostess grounds. Almost Home was part of this huge effort too. Tame Hostess cats were placed in loving homes.

In 2003 Last Hope instituted an ongoing “Fix-A-Feral” program resulting in the spay/ neuter of about 20,000 feral cats. Via grants, donations and fund-raising, we issue half-price vouchers at participating vets. We get requests from eight LI Townships. Islip residents overwhelm our resources. In 2014, 480 Fix -A-Feral vouchers were sent to Islip residents representing 40% of those issued for all of Nassau and Suffolk. In 2015, 509 vouchers, still 40%, went to Islip residents receiving no help from their shelter or Town. This year Last Hope launched a short-term, free feral altering system, and a disproportionate 79 of the 388 free certificates were given to Islip residents.

Supervisor Carpenter and Islip Town

Board, please, do the right thing. In the hours it took me to write this plea, more kittens were born within Islip borders. It’s time Islip join the rest of LI with a new mindset and new shelter director- accept friendly cats and kittens into Islip Shelter and institute a feline “Planned No Parenthood” program to end the suffering of ferals rampantly breeding within Islip Town. Readers can remind Islip Town Hall by calling 631-224-5500.

For Adoption at Babylon Animal Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St., W. Babylon: As a cat contrast to Islip, all Babylon cats are vet checked, spay/neutered, vaccinated, FeLV/FIV tested and micro-chipped before adoption. They receive medical attention needed. Whenever possible, underage kittens are bottle-fed and/or fostered before spay/ neuter. “Smudge” 6- 134, a handsome long-haired gray fellow gets along with dogs and cats. He loves people. “Hope”16- 146 a mature Boxer would make a nice companion to a quiet buddy.

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