Sands Point Village clerk cares for feral cats
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Elizabeth and Petunia have lived in the Village of Sands Point for about a decade, are partial to fur coats and go out to breakfast each morning at Village Hall, where Village Clerk Randy Bond happily reaches into her own pocket to buy their favorite meal -- Cat Cafe.
The fancy names and fur coats belong to two large orange cats that have over the years become the de facto mascots of Sands Point Village Hall. Bond said the pair live in the woods behind Village Hall, coming out at times to sun themselves in the parking lot near the village's police cars, or to stop for a bite in back of the building.
The two are feral and skittish around humans, but that works for Bond -- a cat lover who can't have cats at home because she is allergic.
"This is my way of having them, but not having them," Bond said.
Bond has been feeding the pair -- and only those two, she hastens to add -- for about 10 years, using her own money not only for their food but also to have them both spayed so as not to create a cat colony outside Village Hall.
While North Hempstead Town has had a feral cat problem for years, spurred in part by well-meaning people who dump food in abandoned lots, Bond is going about taking care of Petunia and Elizabeth in the responsible way by spaying them and monitoring their food, said Andrew DeMartin, the town's public safety commissioner.
"We don't have a problem with it," DeMartin said. "Feral cats are always going to exist. We'd like them to exist in a healthy manner, both for the cat and the public health environment."
Last year, the town created a spay-and-neuter program to better cope with the area's feral cat problem. DeMartin said the town began working with cat rescue groups and local veterinarians, and has drastically increased the number of cats that have been spayed or neutered. In 2010, the year before the improved program began, just 48 cats were fixed, compared with about 740 in 2011, he said.
The Sands Point tradition of Village Hall cats began with Bond's predecessor, Linda Mitchell, who retired as village clerk in 2003.
Mitchell, who now lives in North Carolina, said she began feeding cats outside Village Hall in 2000, starting with a red-and-white cat she dubbed "Mrs. Tibbits," after the street on which Village Hall sits.
Mrs. Tibbits is gone, having disappeared in 2003, but Bond said Petunia and Elizabeth have shown up nearly every single day for about a decade.
"They're here summer, winter, spring and fall," she said.
Members of the village's police force feed the cats on weekends, Bond said.
On a recent morning, Bond watched as Patricia and Elizabeth ate from two paper bowls of kibble, before they ran off at the sound of a door opening.
"Cats can take you or leave you," she said after she watched them go. "I kind of like that."
Spay and neuter clinics
The Town of North Hempstead offers free spay and neuter clinics for feral cats.
In 2010, the town fixed 48 cats. That number rose to 740 in 2011, and more than 400 in the first five months of 2012.
Town of North Hempstead residents interested in the clinics or how to care for feral cats responsibly can call 311 from within the town.