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April 1, 2009 > Ohlone Humane Society: A solution to the season

Ohlone Humane Society: A solution to the season

By Nancy Lyon

The vernal equinox was just a week or so ago so I guess that means that it's spring. It still seems pretty cold to me but the heavens don't lie. Around here butterflies can be seen and spring flowers are emerging from a winter's sleep; all in all, a beautiful time.

However with the coming of spring there is a downside. Warming of the earth brings with it another season of the birth of young critters of all kinds and when it comes to our animal companions it can be a time of hardship. It heralds the much dreaded "kitten season," that brings so many overwhelming challenges for the staff of animal shelters and rescuers.

The abundance of very young kittens coming into animal shelters, often with no mother in tow, is a time that is anticipated with resignation and sadness. Resources already hard to come by - like food, money, foster homes and space - often exceed options for saving the multitude of small innocent furry lives.

With foreclosures and a tight economy, most shelters are already stretched to the max with owner-surrendered or abandoned animals. Now they are facing the specter of kitten season with some pretty grim realities. Dealing with box after box of tiny bottle-baby kittens that still need a mother, brought into the shelter by people trying to help quickly exhausts their means for saving lives. It's a darn hard time for everyone, especially the kittens. I've seen tired shelter staff frantically going through their list of life saving possibilities only to turn up with no takers ...and the only bleak but humane option is a trip to the euthanasia room.

An additional troubling effect is when the kittens arrive in the shelter; wonderful adoptable adult cats are immediately overlooked. Those looking to adopt cats are captivated by the abundance of active and adorable kittens. It's difficult enough to place cats in good homes, and try as they may to find other options, shelters quickly become overcrowded. Animals become stressed and staff must work twice hard to prevent illness - the whole scenario of too many cats can quickly become more than the typical understaffed shelter is able to cope with.

A recent study estimated that there are approximately 88.3 million "owned" cats in the United States yet only eighty-seven percent of these cats are spayed or neutered. When people move many are left behind and abandoned to their fate. Of those that survive, the unspayed or unneutered will be the source of a multitude of kittens with many understandably ending up fearful of humans avoiding them at all costs and their off-spring becoming feral ... wild or semi-wild cats. These unfortunate creatures, victims of human carelessness or ignorance will be the majority of felines that will die in shelters. Others won't make it that far and will be killed on the road, or die of disease and starvation.

If your unaltered male cat only ventures outside occasionally, driven by his hormones, there is ample opportunity for him to find a mate. The incredible number of cats that eventually result from that mating is pretty staggering. The domino effect projects that dozens, hundreds and even thousands of unwanted cats can be the result.

Keep in mind that in California alone ...every 63 seconds ... an animal is put to death because there is no place for them to go. This preventable waste of life needs to end and there is a simple solution - just spay or neuter your animal.

The usual excuse for not doing this is that veterinary fees for altering animals is so expensive these days ...however justified and worthwhile it is. However, there are numerous programs to either bring those fees to a workable level or programs that, depending on the individual circumstances, offer the service free of charge.

If you or someone you know has an unaltered companion animal or manages a feral cat colony there is help through the following resources:

Ohlone Humane Society - Fremont, Union City, Newark, Hayward, San Leandro (510) 494-1033
ForPaws Spay/Neuter Clinic (510) 744-1865
Fremont Animal Services - Mobile Spay/Neuter Unit (510) 790-6643; Partnering with Alameda County nonprofit animal organizations
Hayward Friends of Animals Humane Society (feral cats) (510) 886-7546
Fix Our Ferals (510) 433-9446
East Bay S.P.C.A Oakland Clinic (510) 639-7387
Tri-Valley S.P.C.A. 925-479-9670
Palo Alto Spay/Neuter Clinic (Palo Alto Animal Services) (650) 496-5971
Humane Society of the Silicon Valley (408) 727-3383
Santa Clara County Low Cost Spay/Neuter Program - Milpitas (408) 262-7190

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