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Islip eyes trap, neuter, release program to control feral cats

Alycia Frank of Brightwaters puts out food for

Alycia Frank of Brightwaters puts out food for a colony of feral cats located off Mechanicsville Road in Bay Shore on Monday, Aug. 1, 2016. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Residents and animal advocates in Islip have for months demanded a solution to the area’s feral cat problem — and town officials are working on a solution.

Plans for a Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR) program are in the final stages, said James Heil, commissioner of the town’s environmental control department. Policies and procedure details are still being hammered out before the plan goes to the town attorney’s office to review some legal issues. A tentative start date is likely to be near the end of this month.

Residents who said they feed and take care of cat colonies near their homes have appeared at several town board meetings since September, including Rita Schrecongost, co-founder of Shelter Link, an Islip-based nonprofit.

“I saw a huge need for a TNR program in Islip because I’ve been seeing people trying to do it on their own, out of their own pockets,” Schrecongost said. “We’re trying to fix this overpopulation problem. It’s way out of control.”

The town opened up a public comment period earlier this summer and received nine written responses, Heil said. He said he’s been meeting with residents and animal nonprofit leaders to help shape the new guidelines and hopes to soon meet with officials from the Village of Islandia, which “runs a good program,” for ideas.

The town is also looking to establish relationships with local veterinarians or animal hospitals to start a voucher program to perform spay and neuter services. Also under consideration is involving rescue groups to help set up adoptions of friendly cats and animal interest groups to care for them.

About $60,000 in donations given to the town’s animal shelter in recent years for general purposes has been earmarked for the start of the program, Heil said. No other source of revenue has yet been determined.

“The hope is when we get organized and we get working with groups and become more than just a municipal program, that we are more eligible for grants and can be attractive to corporations that wish to donate,” Heil said.

For a spay or neuter procedure, as well as a rabies shot and eartipping — in which a small part of a cat’s left ear is cut off to mark it as altered — costs an average of $75, Schrecongost said, while other vaccination shots and testing for sick animals can cost significantly more.

Schrecongost, who said she has been running her own TNR voucher program through her nonprofit for the past eight years, has helped fix about 700 cats. She said she’s seen parts of East Islip, Bohemia and Bay Shore inundated with ever-growing populations of feral felines.

Joan Phillips, president and co-founder of Animal Lovers League, based in Locust Valley, has helped other municipalities in the towns of Brookhaven, Hempstead and North Hempstead, and wrote a letter to Islip offering her help.

“Every municipality on Long Island should have a TNR program,” Phillips said.

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