At times I wish I were a Solomon to make some tough choices, but unfortunately I am not. My dilemma is how can one fairly and intelligently solve the problem of feeding feral cats. Half the population of Horry County loves cats while the other half hates them.
I receive phone calls, gripes and cries for help about feral or stray cats practically every day. Sav-R-Cats tries to accommodate these concerns as best we can. The most pressing ones I receive come from cat colony caretakers. These are the most difficult, such as the phone call I received from Gerri Dempsey, a 71-year-old person who has been a feral cat colony caretaker in Conway for years.
Gerri received a summons citation from the city for feeding her colonies with the threat of going to jail for feeding these feral cats. Ms. Dempsey, an ardent devotee of cats, every day come rain or shine, is out providing daily sustenance and monitoring of her colonies at her own expense. For her humane efforts, the Conway authorities constantly harass Gerri over the care and feeding of her colony.
A few years back, Sav-R-Cats met with the Conway city manager, police chief and a member of the City Council; we came to an agreement over feeding cats in the city, and now it seems this agreement has been broken by a summons to Ms. Dempsey.
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Conway will never rid itself of cats, nor eliminate the problem of free-roaming community cats. What the city can do is effectively manage the cats that are already there through the full management plan of trap/neuter/return (TNR). The TNR program is a proven way to humanely and successfully control this social problem. The national TNR protocols include the long term management guides that caretakers such as Ms. Dempsey and others are providing. For decades, eradication efforts have been proven to be inhumane, expensive and unsuccessful, resulting in increased numbers of cats from the vacuum effect, or even unintended environmental consequences, such as an increase in vermin or other less desirable predators. The city of Conway surely cannot afford to waste precious tax dollars on such inconsequential issues as Ms. Dempsey’s volunteerism in helping the city manage its feral cat problem.
How can a society believing in liberty and fairness take a 71-year-old lady to jail for feeding cats? The responsibility lies with the city, not with Gerri Dempsey; Gerri is doing work for the good of all concerned and she should be given a medal and some help, not a $1,000 citation with a threat of imprisonment for feeding cats. Where is the compassion in all of this ugliness of just feeding innocent cats?. Maybe there is a Solomon in our midst who can help?
The writer, president of Sav-R-Cats, lives in Myrtle Beach.