On Thursday I attended a webcast called Making the Case for a Paradigm Shift in Community Cat Management presented by Maddie’s Institute. Maddie’s Institute is the research and education branch of Maddie’s Fund, a non-profit organization that supports shelters through grants, research and education, and help with hands on animal care. Their mission “is to revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals.” I think this two part webcast (the second part is a Q and A on July 11) is a great way to start revolutionizing the way cats are cared for and admitted into shelters. You can sign up for the second part of the Webcast here, as well as check out some of the articles used in the first webcast.
I was thrilled that Maddie’s Institute is engaging in a discussion on the state of cats in shelters and the care of community cats (aka feral cats). Maddie’s Institute is able to reach so many people of influence in the shelter and animal care world. I am not sure how many people attended the webcast, I can only hope there were a decent amount. I certainly saw a handful of people Tweeting about it that night.
Dr. Kate Hurley, Director of the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, presented a compelling look at the state of cats in shelters. The statistics she presented told a story of how euthanasia rates have gone down over the past twenty to thirty years, but there are still problems. Sadly, I don’t have many notes from the webcast, I rushed home from work to attend, so I can’t give you the exact statistics, the not so surprising results of a study, which showed that the admission and kill rates had gone down while admission and kill rates for cats have gone up. Why is this? Because of the admission of feral or community cats.
Dr. Hurley discussed different ways the shelters were failing cats, how many shelters are taking in too many cats, cramming the cats into too small spaces where they done show well because of their fear or the cleanest conditions (because of too many cats and not enough volunteers). Because of overcrowding shelters frequently have to put cats down when one too many cats comes in or when an outbreak of URI (upper respiratory infection), a relatively minor and common disease that can easily be treated. When dealing with hundreds of cats and limited resources most open admission shelters and animal control centers are forces to euthanize cats who come down with URI instead of administering antibiotics.
Many of the tactics Dr. Hurley suggested for changing the way the shelters manage cats are tactics used by many no-kill shelters that I have been involved with. I understand how difficult it must be to completely change the way a shelter is run, or how you manage adoptions.
The fact that Maddie’s Institute has started this discussion, and so soon after I attended the Changing Communities for Cats tour from Alley Cat Allies gives me great hope for cats. Two leading organizations discussing new ways the rescue community can better serve cats. I love that Maddie’s Institute’s discussion comes just as ACA is launching their new campaign! With three out of four cats who enter shelters not making it out alive, every life we safe is a step in the right direction. Every person we educate and shelter we can change is a leap forward for the cats. Change is coming for the cats, and none too soon. The rescue community has made great strides in the last twenty years, and now it is time to make more strides for cats.I am so excited to be part of these changes for cats!