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Advocates back Hempstead Town feral-cat caretakers

Animal welfare advocates at yesterday’s Hempstead Town Board meeting expressed support for the two cat colony caretakers in Newbridge Road Park in Bellmore and also criticized the town animal shelter’s trap, neuter and release (TNR) program for feral cats.

One caretaker who has been tending the colony for 12 years asked the town board to consider the well-being of the more than 30 cats at the park.

Town officials — citing health and safety of the cats and park users — want to take down the makeshift shelters and relocate the feeding stations within the park in incremental steps that could take months, starting May 1.

“We ask you to intervene and stop the move,” said Jennifer Jones, 67, of Merrick, but she received no response.

Banned animal shelter volunteers Lucille DeFina and Diane Madden praised the caretakers’ work and complained that the volunteer and TNR programs at the shelter are a long way from being functional.

“Your TNR program is just like your volunteer program — it doesn’t exist,” DeFina said.

The TNR program offers free spaying or neutering, four-in-one vaccines, rabies vaccinations and flea preventatives. The town also offers free classes to certify residents for TNR, town spokesman Michael Deery said in a statement.

The animal shelter has spayed or neutered about 2,000 cats so far this year and about 1,600 cats in 2011 after the program started in October, Deery said.

“We provide more services than other municipalities,” town supervisor Kate Murray said at the meeting. “We do what we can.”

Advocates said they worry that if the shelter has too many adult cats and kittens during the breeding season, the animals might face euthanasia if homes are not found for them.

“It is the number one priority to get the situation under control before it gets worse every year,” animal activist Cathy Gottchaue said at the meeting.


Tags: Hempstead , town , board , feral , cats

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