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Dog & Cat Rescue and Animal Overpopulation
By Constance Young
Imagine a fairy tale world where everybody cherishes their companion animal just as they do their dependent child. When allowed outside unsupervised, the animal is contained, collared, or leashed so he or she won’t get lost or hit by a vehicle. In this best of all possible world everyone “pooper scoops” out of respect for the environment and the neighbors. But most important – every animal is spayed or neutered so there are no strays.
Unfortunately we don’t live in a utopian society. The hard reality is that millions of animals are killed in shelters each year and more millions are killed by cars or lost to unknown dangers. According to southern Columbia county native, Madie Chapin, who works with the animal rescue organization Animal Kind, Inc, “We have a severe crisis concerning companion animal overpopulation – and the cat situation is the worst. On County Route 2 alone I probably take one dead cat off the road every week – and I see many more cats and kittens who are blind from severe upper respiratory infections. I see all kinds of diseases and terrible bites -- all for want of a comfortable and caring place to call home.” Every single rescuer interviewed for this article agrees with Chapin. Donna Yerick of Philmont, who runs Cat Tales (because every cat has a tale to tell if only they could talk) says, “We have to spay and neuter, otherwise there will always be euthanasia and we shouldn’t have to do it.” She explains, “People who aren’t in rescue haven’t seen what we’ve seen; they just don’t realize. It breaks your heart -- there are just not enough good homes. It is really sad. The animal ends up suffering.”
Everyone agrees -- the greatest problem facing domestic animals is overpopulation, and the only answer is spay/neuter.
Just the Facts
It is difficult to get true statistics, but our best estimate is that about 5 to 8 million animals are killed each years in animal shelters across the nation. This means death for roughly 65% of all animals entering a shelter. About 80% of the animals killed are cats.
Don’t think that we are talking about mangy, almost dead-to-the-world stray animals. A study of 12 US animal shelters reported in 1998 in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science found that 30% of all surrendered dogs were purebreds in. There are no similar statistics for cats.
These “kill numbers” do not take into account the neglected millions of dogs and feral cats who are born to live short brutal lives on the outside. According to Chapin, “It is a fallacy that cats can live well and care for themselves in the wild. The life span of a stray is two to three years if they survive kittenhood, and 50% of every litter dies.”
Here are some more sobering statistics: One female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in 7 years. One female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 dogs in 6 years. This means that if you don’t spay a female barn cat and if that cat and her litters aren’t eaten by coyotes, hit by cars, or die (not to mention suffer) from other preventable diseases, in seven years your barn won’t be big enough to house the thousands of feline offspring.
What are we doing about this problem in Dutchess and Columbia counties? As in every other community across this nation, we are trying to cope with this immense societal problem with small success. For whatever gains we’ve made, we have to thank the dogged (no pun intended) determination and sacrifice of a handful of unpaid rescuers working with part-time county and town animal control officers and shelters.
This article covers three basic problems: lost or abandoned dogs; feral and lost cats; and low-cost spay/neuter.
Lost or Abandoned Dogs
You see the same dog running around the neighborhood for a few days and you know the dog doesn’t belong to your neighbors. The animal appears lost and is in danger of being hit by a car. What do you do?
If the dog is friendly and you know how to handle dogs you coral the animal and call somebody. Whom you should call depends on the town you live in and on your commitment to that animal. Some people will try to find the owner themselves if it is a friendly, apparently lost dog. They might board the animal at an animal hospital or kennel or keep the animal themselves and then post notices around town and possibly place newspaper ads to see if they can find the dog’s owner. If the dog has a collar and a license or rabies tag, a local veterinarian will be able to trace its owner. Some people also have a microchip inserted in the dog’s shoulder area, and many vets or dog control officers are able to detect such markings.
If you are unable to catch the dog, either because the animal appears unfriendly or is traumatized, you might try calling a dog warden, although for various reasons this is not always the best solution.
Following is information specific to some New York State shelters and rescues:
Dog control officers
Some dog control officers in this area include Cecil Moore -- who covers Red Hook and Tivoli (758-8527); Roger Newkirk -- who covers Rhinebeck (876-2465); Jim Reilly who covers Pine Plains (518-398-7121); and the number to call in Hyde Park is 229-7583. You can find the names of other dog wardens by calling the Town Halls.
The problem with calling a dog control officer is that this is a part-time job so dog wardens are usually difficult to reach and their resources are limited. For example Newkirk never answered my call for this article. Moreover the dog could be destroyed. The usual rule is to hold the dog for five days to allow time for the owner to retrieve it. The dog is then put up for adoption, allowing at least seven days’ time to find a home. If the animal is not placed or appears mean or vicious, Moore relies on Dr. Allan H.Stanley in Staatsberg to euthanize the dog. Other wardens use other vets.
Moore says, “I’ve not recently been lucky.” He complains that when Bard College closes its term, a lot of the students dump their dogs on River Road in Barrytown. On the positive side, a new volunteer group has formed in the area – called PANT, (but more about them later) and Moore says he works with them trying to place dogs.
Another problem with relying on dog control officers is that the time allotted for retrieval of lost dogs is usually only five days, which may not be enough time for visitors or seasonal people to retrieve their dog.
The better way, if it can be done, is to locate a reliable dog rescue group. Or if this fails, and you can’t find the dog’s owner, you might try to place the dog in a “no kill” shelter (more about that later).
Joan Trombini, president of the recently formed Partnership for Animals Needing Transitions (PANT) says they primarily take dogs and cats from the animal control officers in Dutchess county and place the animals in foster homes. They then advertise for homes in newspapers and on websites. She adds that they eventually hope to open a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. Trombini says that PANT has a database and if you are looking for an animal she will try to find it in their database. “We also could use donations, volunteers and foster homes,” she adds. Call her at 635-4044.
Donna Brilmayer, of Save A Dog, works out of Red Hook. “We take last-chance inner city death row dogs from Manhattan and Brooklyn shelters where they kill about 150 dogs and puppies every day for lack of space,” she says. “We recycle cans, we need to recycle pets,” she adds. “Rather than buy a dog, go to a shelter, take a homeless dog or take one from a rescuer like me. Let’s clean up the mess that we as a society made.” The animals she places live as a member of her family while she “rehabs them.” She also helps with a few local dogs. Call her at 758-9297.
If this doesn’t work most veterinarians will give you other referrals although they will not usually help with the rescue and will charge for board and care.
Cats of all stripes
Madie Chapin, who works with Animal Kind, is a wonderful resource for all kinds of animal questions. She also knows how to trap neuter and release (TNR), which is essential considering the huge feral population in some of our towns, and is something that most of the rescue groups do when dealing with feral cats, provided these cats are being fed and supervised. In dealing with the problem, Chapin refers to what she calls “the vacuum effect.” She explains, “Should you walk into a town and kill every feral cat, within days other ferals will move into that food source. You cannot end the problem of cat overpopulation by killing the animals. The only way is to spay/neuter an out-of-control population.” Chapin has carrier and trap and will travel -- but you must also accept your responsibility. You can leave a message for her at Animal Kind --518-828-3694
Donna Yerick, of Cat Tales, lives in Philmont and “does a little bit of everything.” She traps, neuters, and releases with a feeder and has done a few dog rescues, she says. Like most of the rescue groups, she is in need of volunteers to help foster the animals until they find a good home. “People are getting a good deal. They get a cat that is spayed or neutered, vet checked, with shots, for only $50.” Call her at 518-672-5421
Laurie Barringer of SCARS (Stray Cat Animal Rescue Service), works out of the town of Olive in Ulster county. “I deal mostly with feral cats,” she says. “Ulster county is so bad it keeps me very busy.” She is half of a mother-daughter team, she says. “I rescue the cats, my mother is in charge of fostering and adoptions.” Laurie boasts, “I’ve spayed and neutered at least 1,000 cats so far.” Call her at 657-2285.
Alice Cannon, of Second Chance Farm in Esopus, keeps some of the animals on her 10-acre farm in Esopus and also uses a network of foster homes where vet-checked and tested lost and abandoned animals are held until she finds the right home. Cannon says that at the moment she has 160 cats on her farm and in her various foster homes. She will take others “if I have space.” Last years she placed about 200 animals. Call her at 384-6441.
If all else fails call one of the “no kill” shelters in the area: Dutchess SPCA (452-1640), is very crowded although they are worth a try; or call Columbia Greene Humane Society (518-828-6044). In Orange county (Middletown) try Pets Alive (386-9738) or try Oasis at 482-5161. A caveat – shelters don’t usually take feral cats.
Low-cost spay neuter clinics
The following are a few vets and shelters where you can get low cost spay/neuter in this area. Call 756-3907 and leave a message on the answering machine for low-cost spay/neuter or call 679-4337. Another option is to get a certificate from GAWA (Greene Animal Welfare Alliance) by calling 518-945-3218. Dr. David H. Jenkins of Catskill Animal Hospital, 518-943-4340, will accept these certificates. Dutchess SPCA now does low- cost spay/neuter (331-5377). Ulster SPCA in Kingston (331-5337) costs $35 for a female cat with rabies shots.
In addition, some vets in Ulster County will take Friends of Animals certificates. Call 1-800-321-PETS (a female cat costs $45 with rabies shot). Or call 1-800-SPAY-USA.
Where to go and whom to call:
Dog wardens: Red Hook or Tivoli 758-8527; Rhinebeck 876-2465; Hyde Park 229-7583; Pine Plains 518-398-7121.
Rescue groups: PANT (Joan Trambino) – 635-4044; Animal Kind Inc 518-828-3694; Save A Dog (Donna Brilmayer – Red Hook) 758-9297 (usually deals with NYC shelter animals)
Animal Kind 518-828-3694; Cat Tales (Donna Yerick) 518-672-5421; SCARS, in Olive (Laurie Baringer) 657-2285; Second Chance Farm (Alice Cannon – Esopus) 384-6441
On the Internet, go to Petfinder.com, WestchesterPets.org or AnimalFriends.org.
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