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A sad situation

POSTED June 22, 2010 9:12 p.m.

I believe the picture that ran with Saturday’s Journal story, “Shelters overrun with feral kittens,” was probably the cutest animal photo we have ever published. The story that accompanied the photo, however, was also one of the saddest animal stories we have ever published.

The story basically reported that Turlock Animal Services is killing dozens of unwanted kittens every week. This is happening not because Turlock Animal Services is barbaric or even unkind, but because there are way too many kittens being born and way too few resources to keep them healthy and alive.

Just in the month of June, 150 cats and kittens have been turned over to the shelter.

In her story, Journal reporter Andrea Goodwin quoted Brenda Sutherland, the founder of HOPE Small Animal Rescue, a private rescue organization that works to keep as many stray animals alive as possible, as saying that the most humane thing Turlock Animal Services can do is euthanize the kittens and cats.

“The perception the community has is that the Turlock Animal Shelter wants to kill animals. But where are you going to put 150 kittens? The just can't do it,” Sutherland said.

When other Journal employees read Goodwin’s story about the kitten problem, they wanted to launch a volunteer campaign to help care for the hundreds of kittens and cats left at the animal shelter. They began planning a grass roots call-out for volunteers. While this was a noble thought, I don’t think it is realistic.

According to Officer Glena Jackson of the Turlock Police Department’s Animal Control Department, many of the kittens brought in are born to feral cats and are less than eight weeks old. This means they are too young to eat solid food and have to be bottle fed every two hours.

Can you imagine how many volunteers would be needed to bottle feed 150 kittens every two hours, 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

Even if an army of Turlockers volunteered to tend to the town’s unwanted kittens, the cost of keeping the shelter open and staffed around the clock, along with supplying the special formula needed for all the kittens would be prohibitive.

Let’s say that a kitten philanthropist donated the funds needed to keep the shelter open and buy all the supplies needed. Many of the kittens would still die. Being born of feral cats makes kittens extremely vulnerable to diseases such as upper respiratory failure, feline leukemia and feline HIV.

I know this all sounds hopeless, but there are things you can do to help the situation. First and foremost, spay and neuter all pets. Also, bring in any stray cats that happen to be roaming around your property to be spayed or neutered. Alley Cat Guardians in Modesto will spay and neuter trapped cats for a low cost. Their phone number is 567-3570 and they can be found on the Web at alleycatguardians.org. Turlock Animal Control rents traps for a $50 refundable deposit, plus $2 per day. They can be reached at 656-3140.

If you are able to care for a new kitten or cat, I urge you to adopt one of the many animals that are healthy and available for adoption at the Turlock Animal Shelter. Every Saturday the Journal publishes pictures of a few of the animals ready for adoption. Photos of adoptable animals are also viewable at www.turlock.ca.us, under Turlock Animals Control.

The Turlock Animal Shelter is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. They are located at 801 S. Walnut St.

If you are unable to care for a new pet, you can still make a difference by donating supplies or funds. For more information, call 656-3140.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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