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The ARC Advocate
December 2010 - Vol 1, Issue 1
In This Issue
Awakening of ARC's Feral Cat Leader
Who's Buddy, Anyway?
Feral Cat Program Microchips
County Ordinance Supports TNR
Feral Cat Trapper Goes Beyond TNR
Disney Finds Balance with Ferals
How You Can Help


ARC needs donations right now for its Emergency Medical Fund, Feral Microchipping Program, and mobile surgical clinic repairs.

Please help us fill these urgent needs, and save more animals, by making a
tax-deductible donation.

What is a Feral Cat?

Feral cats, also known as community cats, are the offspring of domestic cats that were not socialized with a human.  They are the direct result of abandonment and people who fail to spay/neuter their own pets. They live in family groups called colonies, mate year-round, and their offspring contribute significantly to overcrowded shelters.

Feral cats are rarely adoptable and often euthanized, even by some shelters that call themselves "no-kill."
Most of their offensive behaviors -- fighting, yowling, marking territories with urine, and mating -- cease once cats are sterilized.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) involves sterilizing entire colonies, returning them to their homes, and managing them through regular feeding and care. It's not only humane, it's cost-efficient: euthanization can cost up to $150 per cat, while ARC's feral cat program costs $30 per cat.

Credits & Contact

Honorary Editor
Caroline Resnick

Christine Hawes

The ARC Advocate
is sponsored by the Animal Rescue Coalition, 47 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota.  Their website is Animal Rescue Coalition,
and phone is 941-957-1955. 

Welcome to our Newsletter
Welcome to the first-ever ARC Advocate, a new publication from the Animal Rescue Coalition. ARC's mission is to end the killing of adoptable dogs and cats in Sarasota and Manatee counties by means of a proactive spay/neuter program, comprehensive adoption program, and various other initiatives designed to recognize the profound benefits to people of animal companionship.

Every month, The ARC Advocate will provide useful tips for animal care, inspiring stories of how ARC helps animals, and information about ARC's programs and needs.

This debut issue is devoted to an ARC program considered a regional leader in feral cat care and management: Buddy's Feral Cat Program.

For 11 out of 12 months each year, residents and experienced trappers work diligently to humanely trap, neuter and return feral cats throughout Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. Anywhere from 60 to 150 cats are transported to Ashton Animal Clinic, where Dr. Laurie Walmsley and Feral Cat Program Director Caroline Resnick lead scores of volunteers, including more than a dozen area veterinarians, in providing sterilization surgeries, recovery, flea treatment, and other medical care to these otherwise forgotten felines.

Please enjoy this close look at Buddy's Feral Cat Program, just one of the ways ARC leads our region in encouraging humane treatment of all animals.

The Awakening of a Feral Cat Leader
Caroline Resnick, director of Buddy's Feral Cat Program, donates the equivalent of a full-time job to helping our community more humanely control feral cat populations. Here is her first-hand story of how she awoke to the plight of feral cats:

ARC's Feral Cat Leader
I first became aware of the silent suffering of feral cats more than 10 years ago, when I came across an unmanaged colony in a wooded area near a country gas station. As I pulled into the station one day, I noticed scores of cats and kittens hiding throughout the woods near the gas station, which was located along a high-traffic major thoroughfare.

The day after I first encountered this colony, I returned to the gas station to find a young male cat lying still near the gas pumps. He had just recently been hit by a car.

I had to stop and pick up his tiny body. But I realized no one around me gave a second thought to this cat. No one cared. I realized that ignoring these cats and their plight, and looking the other way, was the prevalent attitude.

As I pondered my next move, I noticed that some fellow members of this cat's colony were watching me from the woods nearby. I became determined to help what was obviously a family in its own right, and started by picking up the young cat's body and laying him near the edge of his wooded home. Slowly, his feral family members walked up to his lifeless body and stood over him as if they were saying their final goodbyes.

That was just the start of my experience with forgotten felines. I worked out a plan and implemented the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program in that area, adopted out the kittens, stopped the breeding, set up a feeding station to monitor the colony, and have been working with feral cats ever since.

Everyone will eventually encounter or interact with a stray or feral cat. How will you respond? Only through embracing TNR, the humane way to control feral cats, will we earn the right to call ourselves a true humane society.

As this newsletter helps spread the word about ARC and what it does for this community's forgotten animals, I hope to provide continuous inspiration and guidance to anyone wanting to learn more about feral cats and how to care for them.

Contact ARC's Feral Cat Program Director by clicking here, or call 941-957-1955, ext. 5.
Who's Buddy, Anyway?
Phyllis and Buddy
Phyllis and Buddy
Phyllis Siskel had just lost her pet cat of 21 years. And the weak little kitten in Trap No. 17 was suffering from malnutrition, parasites and a seeming lack of hope. The two found each other at ARC's feral cat clinic six years ago, and together they've changed the plight of feral cats in Southwest Florida.

Because of Phyllis's generous support for ARC, Buddy's Feral Cat Program is named after that little black cat, who went home with Phyllis the day they met and remains her constant companion today. "He's so loving, and so playful. He's there for me all the time. He's my buddy."

When Buddy first arrived at the clinic, remembers ARC Medical Director Dr. Laurie Walmsley, he was far from playful. His eyes were crusted shut, and he was weak from hunger. "He was the classic example of a feral kitten born to natural circumstances who was suffering. You could see it in his eyes, the emptiness, like he had given up hope. His condition was so severe, we knew he couldn't go back out into the wild."

Phyllis, meanwhile, had been volunteering at the feral cat clinic for four years when she met Buddy. She and her husband Norman had just lost the second of their two longtime pet cats, Woody and Mickey. "We had talked about getting another kitty, about how the right one will come along at the right time."

The other volunteers knew of Phyllis's situation and asked if she'd be willing to nurse the sickly black kitten back to health. "So we fostered him, and when I asked my husband, 'Should I take this little guy back?' he said, 'No, I kind of like him, and I think he can be your buddy.' That's how he got his name."

When ARC leaders decided to name the feral cat clinic after Buddy, they adorned the spay/neuter mobile clinic with Buddy's picture, a sight that still warms Phyllis's heart.  "To see the rig, to see the brochures with Buddy's picture on them, just to know that we're helping to sponsor a great program is a good feeling."

Feral Cat Program Begins Microchipping
In most communities, feral cats taken in by animal service officers face a miserable fate. Typically, officers have no way to find the cats' home, even if they are part of a managed colony. Because most feral cats are unaccustomed to human contact, they are usually unadoptable.

Which means they are either euthanized immediately, or spend several days restrained in an unfamiliar cage, an environment drastically different than the woods and other hidden spaces where they live in the outdoors. Their last moments of life are filled with fear as they are restrained in their cage with metal tongs so that the euthanization technician can reach them with a needle.

ARC and Sarasota County Animal Services hope to change this experience for feral cats with a new microchip program. Starting at ARC's January feral cat clinic, all cats sterilized and ear-tipped (a mark of sterilization and rabies vaccination) will also receive microchips so they can be scanned and returned to their colony caregiver if picked up by Sarasota's animal services officers.

"In the long run, this will allow Animal Services to completely focus on animals that really need their help," says Caroline Resnick, ARC's program director. "Feral cats don't belong in a shelter because they are not adoptable. Microchipping feral cats will prevent them from taking up space at the shelter while making more room for adoptable animals."

ARC has applied for grant funding and is seeking donations to help fund the microchipping program, which will cost about $5 per cat. If you would like to support this program, please click here.

Year-old Sarasota County Ordinance Supports TNR
Did you know that TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return), recognized nationwide as the most humane response to feral cats and cat overpopulation, was technically not endorsed in Sarasota County until less than a year ago? Sterilizing and feeding a feral cat was once illegal.  But a needed ordinance change happened in October 2009, thanks largely to the tireless efforts of feral cat advocates and Sheriff Tom Knight.

ARC ran its feral cat clinic "under the radar" without much fanfare for seven years in spite of the county's flawed ordinance.  Sheriff Knight, who took over his post last year, assigned Lt. Tom Stroud to learn from TNR models nationwide that had already proven to be successful.

The result was a unanimous vote by the Sarasota County Commission in support of the new ordinance and TNR.  This is a decision backed by scientific studies, which show that managed colonies are the most effective way to improve the lives of feral cats. 

Citizens, neighborhoods, homeowners associations, trailer parks and businesses nationwide are embracing and implementing TNR programs. Buddy's Feral Cat Program and others like it are receiving national attention and worldwide acceptance as the only way to humanely control feral cat populations.

Feral Cat Trapper Goes Beyond TNR
Chico's new bandana
Chico's new bandana
Feral cat colony caregivers often encounter situations far beyond their mission of trapping cats. They often are called to become real-life illustrations of the very phrase "Animal Rescue."

Consider the story of Chico, an Australian Shepherd who was befriended by a homeless man.

Thrown out of a two-story window, Chico underwent surgery to repair a damaged hip. Once he was healed, no one wanted him. Chico eventually found his way to George, a homeless man who lived behind a gas station, and together they built a friendship and loyal bond, surviving the elements together for years.

A feral cat trapper met George and Chico while on her way to manage a nearby feral cat colony. Seeing how Chico suffered in the heat, she convinced George to share Chico's care during the extreme summer months. She also explained to George that it was in Chico's best interest to be neutered.

Once Chico arrived at Ashton Animal Clinic, owned by ARC's Medical Director Dr. Laurie Walmsley, he received a bath, body clipping, heartworm test, neutering and vaccinations. Now healthy and active, he sports a spiffy new haircut and festive red bandana.

George, meanwhile, visits Chico every weekend. "What a joy it is to watch him kneel to the ground and extend his arms while Chico runs full-speed to greet him," the trapper says.

The healing and rescue provided by ARC knows no boundaries.  Feral cat caregivers live that truth every day.

Disneyland Finds Balance with Feral Cats
ThWalt Disneye article below was originally published in Alley Cat Allies eNews Stories in July 2010, and is reprinted here with the permission of Alley Cat Allies.

Mickey Mouse may have put Disneyland on the map 55 years ago, but today, a colony of feral cats helps keep the famous theme park rodent-free. No one is quite sure when the cats moved in, but feral cats have made their home on Disneyland Resort's grounds for at least a quarter century, and likely since the park opened in 1955. Rather than try to evict them, Disneyland staff have set an example as a corporate giant, embracing the cats as an integral part of the park's everyday operations.

"We view them as partners. It's kind of a symbiotic relationship with them," explains Gina Mayberry, who oversees the Circle D Ranch where Disneyland's animals are housed. The cats, whom she dubs "natural exterminators," see to it that Disneyland's rodent population is kept in check. The cats are free to come and go as they please, but don't expect to spot one on your next visit-Mayberry says guests rarely see them, as they hide during the daytime. According to a May article in the LA Times, an estimated 200 cats join Disneyland Resort's overnight maintenance team after the crowds have gone home, prowling the parks' manicured greenery in search of mice.

Feral cats have been welcome at Disneyland as long as 25-year veteran Mayberry can remember, but it was only seven years ago that animal care staff at the park took it upon themselves to do right by their feline employees and institute Trap-Neuter-Return. Aided by local organizations including FixNation, Disneyland developed a lasting protocol for the humane care of the resort's cats.
"What we do is trap the cats, get them spayed or neutered, make sure they get a wellness check, and release them back into the population," says Mayberry. Although Disneyland doesn't monitor the total number of cats, she says the program has been quite successful at adopting out kittens and "maintaining a balance" between cat population and the Disneyland environment.

After the cats are neutered and returned to the park grounds, they receive continuing managed care. They dine at five discreet feeding stations throughout the resort, which are strategically placed to minimize interaction with cast members and resort guests. "We want to keep them feral so they don't find the need to associate or interact with people," says Mayberry.

It's refreshing to see such a high-profile park treating all its visitors and inhabitants humanely-not just the human ones. Disneyland Resort's TNR program proves that large, high-profile organizations and feral cat colonies can not only peacefully share the same property, but also strike up a mutually beneficial relationship that improves conditions for both parties. Or as Mayberry puts it, "I truly believe that they do benefit us as well we benefit them."

Coming Next Month
A look behind the scenes at preparations for ARC's two biggest annual fundraising events: Dogs' Night Out on Jan. 14, and the Gala on Feb. 19.  We'll also take a look at some ARC programs most in need of your support, such as the Emergency Medical Fund.