New York

How Contraceptive Surgery and Pandemic Pauses at Contraceptive Surgery Clinics Lead to Cat Catastrophe

Cat advocates warned that the city’s cat population would explode when free contraceptive surgery was stopped due to the peak of the spring COVID wave.

Currently, they have a prolific population, with months of suspension of surgery, usually in large numbers of veterinary centers, resulting in exponential growth in both wild and friendly cat ranks on the streets of New York. Is said to unleash.

Kathleen O’Malley of the FeralCat Initiative, which is part of the animal rescue non-profit organization Bideawee, said: “Closing the clinic was a very difficult decision. It certainly affected the number of cats.” We gave birth to more kittens. “

Lower East Side cat.
Ben Fractenberg / THE CITY

It didn’t help that the first few months of the pandemic coincided with the “kitten season”, the mating season for non-fixed cats in the city from late March to October.

Exacerbating the city’s kitten crisis: countless livestock abandoned by owners who have left the city or can no longer afford to take care of them.

These ex-pets are more familiar to animal rescuers than free-range stray cats and may have already been modified. But as winter approaches, they remain thrown into the streets of the cold city.

“When people can no longer take care of them, they just unleash them,” said Esther Koslow, chairman of the Shelter Reform Action Committee, a non-profit group of city-based animal advocates. Said.

Unknown number

O’Malley said it’s difficult to determine the number of kittens born during a pandemic, as well as the number of outdoor cats kept in the city before the pandemic. Her organization estimated that 300,000 cats lived outdoors before the pandemic. Other groups have set this number at 500,000.

However, cat handlers say it is almost certain that the number will increase after surgery is stopped.

Among those who canceled the procedure was the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals from late March to early June. Headquartered in Manhattan in 2019 According to ASPCA, about 10,000 “community cats” (traps, contraceptive surgery, animals brought from the street by returning volunteers) were castrated or castrated.

Trap A cage used to capture cats for the Newter Return process.

Trap A cage used to capture cats for the Newter Return process.
Courtesy of Flatbush Cats

From there, mathematics grows exponentially. An unpaid female can have an average of 4 kittens per animal and 2-3 kittens per year. Each of her female kittens can become pregnant by the age of four months.

According to O’Malley, many cats cannot tolerate the harsh winter conditions, so their populations “fluctuate in bell curves throughout the year.”

Will Zweigart, founder and secretary-general of a non-profit organization called Flatbush Cats, said the full effect of what’s happening now won’t be revealed until later.

“The real impact is immeasurable, but it’s directly on the shoulders of independent rescuers,” said Zweigart, who has nearly 500,000 social media followers between his nonprofit YouTube and Instagram accounts. Says.

Zweigart said the kitten boom inevitably meant more suffering and death for cats.

“There is a misconception that outdoor cats are okay on their own,” he said, arguing that their life expectancy would be dramatically shortened if they weren’t fixed.

According to the Humanitarian Association and other animal rights groups, he adds that cats born on the street can be drawn directly to overcrowding of shelters and euthanasia, the main cause of premature death of cats in the United States. It was.

“No one wants it,” he said. “That’s awful.”

Payment of procedure

ASPCA’s mobile clinic and two surgical centers (one in Manhattan and one in Glendale, Queens) have been closed for several months, replacing many rescuers with contraceptive and contraceptive surgery in cats. I had a hard time finding a low cost option.

The cats they rescued with Trap-neuter-Return (TNR) caught, repaired, and released the cats where they found them, eventually hitting the rescuer’s notebook. Contraceptive or neutering surgery for a cat usually costs $ 100.

The non-profit Flatbush Cats help tame wild cat populations.

The non-profit Flatbush Cats help tame wild cat populations.
Courtesy of Flatbush Cats

“Rescuers spend thousands of dollars on their own money to repair these cats,” said Jonathan Soma of Sunset Park, which runs a small rescue non-profit organization called the Cat Republic.

He said most of the rescue operations were as small as he was. Some people are asking for donations to their Venmo accounts or funding through sites such as GoFundMe to reduce the financial burden of volunteering.

“It happens to be a random group of people doing this job,” said Soma, who helped more than 100 cats through TNR this year with a partner.

Prior to the pandemic, Soma said it was already difficult to book contraceptive and castration surgery through the ASPCA website, as demand far exceeded supply.

He said other rescuers would take the slot as soon as it opened.

“I actually created a computer program that continuously accesses their website to see if the spots are open so that they can grab them each time they appear.” He said.

Zweigart equated the long-awaited purchase of Beyonce’s concert tickets with his promise.

“Within 60 seconds, in the next two weeks, all the spots available for contraceptive and castration surgery were gone,” Zweigart told THE CITY. “Therefore, the free service is available, but it can be a bit misleading. It’s not really accessible — and it was before COVID.”

During the pandemic, some rescuers attacked ASPCA on an online forum to make a shutdown decision, Soma said. But both he and Zweigart said ASPCA was not worthy of criticism.

“This is not to blame one organization,” Zweigart said. “This is to emphasize the significant lack of funding for problems that can be solved if aggressively attacked.”

ASPCA said in a statement that it did not provide free repair services from late March to early June as a preventative health measure and “to avoid contributing to the shortage of life-saving medical supplies.” Since then, we have resumed service with limited capacity.

ASPCA did not answer the question from THE CITY about the current amount of contraceptive castration and comparison with pre-pandemic abilities.

In April, WNYC / Gothamist reported ASPCA that nonprofits fixed a total of 35,000 cats in 2019. ASPCA performed 10,000 contraceptive or neutering surgeries on community cats last year, and non-profit organizations “will offer contraceptive neutering surgery. Contraception on more than 8,000 community cats in New York City this year I had a castration operation. ”

“We continue to prioritize this population while ensuring the health and safety of our staff and clients,” said the ASPCA statement.

“As we move forward, our activities during this period prioritize the population of the highest-risk cats — providing contraceptive / contraceptive neutering to cats in the community and are more recently owned. There are a limited number of dogs and cats, as well as unowned rescued dogs and cats, “continued the statement, stating that ASPCA had implemented COVID-safe drop-off procedures on animals. It was.

How to help

Koslow of the Shelter Reform Action Committee said he was impressed with the number of friendly, tame street cats he encountered during the COVID era.

“People are losing their homes and their jobs,” she said. “They can’t buy food for their families, let alone pets.”

Among the abandoned cats, find a way to the city-funded non-profit organization NYC’s Animal Care Center and never bring animals into the facility, from cats and dogs to rabbits and guinea pigs. I say I won’t pull them apart.

According to ACC spokesman Katy Hansen, ACC has accepted more than 6,000 cats since March 1st, with more than 90% at home.

“The biggest change we’ve made is that we need someone to schedule the surrender,” Hansen said. “The layout of the facility over 30 years ago is not suitable for social distances, so we need to handle the incoming animals in an orderly manner.”

More than 600 New Yorkers have contacted ACC for advice on what to do with cats in the local community. “As a result, the possibility of surrender of 794 cats has been prevented,” says Hansen.

“As more people stay at home, more people feed cats in the community and see them in the yard, but you might not have seen them when you rarely stay at home,” Hansen said. Says.

Cats grow up in Brooklyn.

Cats grow up in Brooklyn.
Courtesy of Flatbush Cats

Zweigart said the problem of community cats would continue if nothing more was done. People can adopt from local rescue groups, raise kittens, and be TNR certified to tame the number of free-walking cats in the community.

“We can’t adopt a way out of this problem,” he said. “It’s a band aid at best.”

How Contraceptive Surgery and Pandemic Pauses at Contraceptive Surgery Clinics Lead to Cat Catastrophe

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