Many feral cat caretakers live in fear of Animal Control, but have you ever thought about where the responsibility for pet overpopulation and euthanasia really lies? Our society has created different governmental departments to carry out the laws that we enact to cope with these issues, so really, we, the public, are responsible. It is possible to become a town or a county that comes close to being no-kill, to do that we must make the necessary changes to facilitate this.

Here are the links to the statistics from 2007 and 2008 for DuPage County Animal Care and Control (note these are pdf files - you need the Adobe Acrobat Reader (available here) to read them). We are publishing these statistics with their full permission. As you can see, we (they, all of us) have a ways to go before we can think about "No-Kill" DuPage County.

The information can be a little confusing when seen all lumped together. Please take the time to look at the charts, line by line. For our purposes we are only concerned with the Cat column – the Dogs hopefully have their own spokespeople!

There was a rise in cat euthanasia from 2007 to 2008, which seems directly attributable to the increase in the number of ferals brought in (= 138), but there were also fewer cats going out due to return to owner, adoptions and transfers to other shelters (= 235). The difference in total euthanasia was a 143 cat increase.

The largest number, and one that remained constant, was the number of Owner Give-Ups. Unfortunately, DCACC does not currently have the ability to break that number down into smaller definitive pieces of information. What may be a big portion of that number are the litters of kittens brought in that people have found, etc. There are days in the summer when they will intake 50 kittens in one day.

DuPage County has an area of 332 square miles with a population of 904,161 (according to the 2000 census). In the unincorporated areas of the County there is a population of approximately 104,000. The number of owner occupied housing units in 2005 was 248,000. It is an accepted theory that you can say that 10% of the households in a given area are feeding outside cats. So, in DuPage County, worst case scenario, we can estimate that 25,000 households are feeding ferals. I hope that there are nowhere near that many!

Now, here comes the “but.” One household may feed one feral, another may feed 30 ferals. Ferals tend to view a neighborhood as a buffet. They may visit as many as five homes in a day, snacking at each one. It would be wonderful to be able to say that there are 5,000 feral cats in DuPage County, but at this time, it is impossible to calculate. We could be much lower than 5,000 or much higher. The only way to know is to TNR them ALL!

The only way to lower the number of euthanized cats is to make sure that every cat is wanted. Therefore we need to lower the number of cats available, create a shortage in fact. We can do this by spaying and neutering every cat we can lay our hands on for the next few years. Merrit Clifton, of Animal People, has a theory that is widely accepted, that if you reach a 70% spay/neuter rate, you will see a decline in the population.

Many people say bad things about Animal Control. Unfortunately, they are only doing their jobs, carrying out the laws that, ultimately, WE are responsible for. If we want to see a change in how animals are dealt with in our society, we must become more involved in the law-making process. Have you ever attended a town meeting? They are open to the public, and nothing makes our political servants more nervous than to have people in the audience with an unknown agenda. Have you met or even know the name of your village trustee? Would you know who your mayor is, if you saw him on the street? Do you know your town’s policy toward feral cats? Do you know if your local police handle feral cat complaint calls, or do they pass it on to the County? Some towns do not have an officer dedicated to animal complaints and have an arrangement with County. Did you know that thru the Freedom of Information Act, you can find out how many cats have been picked up and sent to County in a given year? Of course, some towns have such a budget crisis that they might incur a great hardship if they devoted the man hours necessary to come up with your answer and may not be able to comply, that was the case with one area town that was contacted. Do you know your County Board representative? We will be working towards changing the County ordinances; it would be good for your County Board member to know your feelings on the topic.

There were 318 cats euthanized for Space in 2008 at the DuPage County shelter. No doubt some of these were kittens and if these kittens had gone to a foster home, they would not have been taking up space and would not have been euthanized. They would have returned to be quickly adopted as friendly, happy, neutered, vaccinated and microchipped kittens. Please consider becoming a foster home for DuPage Animal Care and Control. They have a wonderful program and you would be doing a great service.

This is getting long, and I could go on and on, but let me say that I NEVER pass up an opportunity to talk to someone about cats. If I’m shopping and I see someone buying cat food, I ask “How many do you have?” Often I find out that they are also feeding ferals, know someone who feeds ferals and am able to get more ferals TNR’d as a result.

I know for a fact that Feral Fixers’ information has been passed around Wal-Mart’s, given to hairdressers, and hairdressers have been passing it on to their clients, vet offices, pet stores, everyone is handing out our information and we are very thankful for that! It is becoming a much smaller world as a result, and we need everyone to TALK about ferals, to their friends, their neighbors, their co-workers and strangers they just happen to encounter. Ferals have been living in secrecy for ever. It is only by bringing them out into the light by TALKING about them will we ever reduce the number of cats euthanized and lighten the burden of cat overpopulation!

Let’s TALK!

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