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Norwich Bulletin - 8/24/2008

The Plight of the Animals Today

We all know that many people are struggling to pay their bills. No matter how hard I personally work, it seems like I can never get ahead because the cost of food, oil, gas and anything at all that I might want to or need to buy, has gone up in price.

People who are financially in trouble, are able to find different types of help for just about anything; there are social service agencies, fuel assistance programs, food banks, food stamps, rental assistance, homeless shelters, and other programs that are put together by various towns and churches.

However, there are not too many social programs to help the animals, and they cannot speak for themselves! While there are many good people that have all the pets they can possibly handle or afford, there are others who continue to take in animals and never get them medical care or have them altered. In fact, many people still have not gotten the message that spaying and neutering their cats and dogs is critically important. And so what happens?

Since we are facing serious economic difficulties, the pets, especially cats, are suffering. More and more are being abandoned on the streets by people who are being evicted, laid off, or simply ended up with pregnant cats because they could not afford to have their cat spayed.

Many of the owners of these cats will tell you they called their town for help, and found out that the town ďdidnít do catsĒ and then they called the local rescue groups to find out that they are all full and broke because donations are down and the cities do not help out financially, and then they called the Humane Society to find out that they were full and keeping a waiting list, or, if they had room, they required a donation. These owners will tell you that they put an ad in the paper, online, and at various stores around their town, and no-one responded because there are just too many cats.

The State of Connecticut has a modest program that provides vouchers to alter feral cats, and as of this year, to help people from low income families. This program does help and every year the people who run the program try to increase the amount of vouchers they can offer. However, the truth is, cats are still second class citizens in the State of Connecticut. In the richest state per capita, we cannot get anyone in government to step up to the plate and start making laws that will put the cat on an equal par with the dog.

Until the general public starts demanding help from their municipalities, and until the private rescue groups learn how to say no when they are full and broke, we are going to continue to see a rise of abandoned cats who are not altered. And unfortunately, no-one complains until it happens to them. When a cat is abandoned in the street, or on a farm or left in an apartment or house, the person who has found the cat usually becomes very self righteous and demanding of the smaller organizations who struggle to help their towns.

I get no less than ten calls a day to come and get a stray cat and when I say no, I am reminded that the cat is not their cat or their responsibility. Guess what? It is not my cat, nor my responsibility either. In fact, in the State of Connecticut, it seems that it is no-oneís responsibility.

State law requires every town to have a full or part-time Animal Control Officer, and most towns have Animal Shelters, but not for cats, only stray dogs. So you, the people, are paying for someone to take care of the stray dogs, but if a cat comes into your yard, well, itís not the townís problem Ė itís yours. And until you start calling your town council, selectperson, or Mayor and demanding help, it will stay your problem.

So pick up the phone Ė donít call me because I canít pay for your stray, but start demanding change in your town. Will your taxes go up if towns start taking in cats? Maybe, but if some of the very poor Southern States have found a way to include cats in their towns and to have low cost spay and neuter programs for their people, why canít Connecticut?

The answer is that most of the towns get away with not taking responsibility for stray cats by letting the overwhelmed private rescues deal with things. My advice is for the rescues to start saying no (like I have) and the people to start looking toward their towns for help. Eventually, the towns will have to hear your voices.

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