Helping Paws

Animal control officers, shelters and other organizations in the Glove Cities continue to combat what they say is the biggest issue involving stray animals in the area – cats.

The problem isn’t as rampant in Johnstown, which contracts with the James A. Brennan Memorial Humane Society on Nine Mile Tree Road in Gloversville. The shelter is equipped to house stray cats as well as dogs, which allows Johnstown Animal Control Officer Kelly Warner to pick up strays when people call.

“Johnstown doesn’t have as much rental property as Gloversville, so we don’t have the issues they do,” Warner said. “We do, however, have elderly people that like to feed the stray cats, but nothing like Gloversville. We get the occasional instance where young kids will move out and leave their cat behind, but again, unlike Gloversville, we have a contract where we’re allowed to pick them up. I actually bring in many more cats than I do dogs every year.”

In Gloversville, however, Animal Control Officer Richard Schuyler cannot pick up stray cats. There is no ordinance in the city governing cats – unlike dogs, which must be licensed – and the shelter the city contracts with for picking up stray dogs, the Regional Animal Shelter, is only equipped to house dogs.

Gloversville Mayor Dayton King said he is unsure why the city does not contract with the Brennan animal shelter for its stray cats, but would be open to discussing it. Currently, Brennan will help out the Regional Animal Shelter and the city with both cats and overflow dogs when space is available.

“I don’t remember why, other than the Regional Animal Shelter is right around the corner from City Hall,” King said.

In his 12 years as animal control officer with the Gloversville Police Department, Schuyler has not seen any worsening or improvement of the stray cat problem. He said he usually receives at least one call per day about stray cats, with the summer being particularly busy.

“The complaints regarding cats are quite numerous,” Schuyler said.

According to Schuyler and King, the issue of a cat ordinance has been brought up before in Common Council meetings. However, it “usually ends up being dead in the water,” Schuyler said.

King said he has no intention of introducing any ordinances for stray cats.

“Certainly, it would be very taxing on animal control, the police department and the city clerk,” King said. “We’d have to hire more people to enforce it, which is something we’re not willing to do at this time. Yeah, it stinks.”

Enforcing an ordinance would be extremely difficult, Warner said. In Johnstown, as in Gloversville, cats are not required to be licensed.

“I know the Gloversville Common Council talked about [micro]chipping cats for owned cats,” she said. “But come on, it’s hard enough to get people to license their dogs.”

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio said she introduced legislation in 2008 that would have required cat owners in Gloversville to register cats, and make sure the cats had vaccinations against rabies. The legislation also would have required people who fed stray cats to become responsible for those cats.

“[I introduced it] because when I first got in office, I got a lot of phone calls about it,” said Anadio, who is also a cat owner. “It didn’t go anywhere.”

Anadio said she hasn’t thought about introducing new legislation for cats again because the council is focused on solving other issues, such as blight.

People abandoning their cats and not neutering and spaying them are some of the main reasons for the cat problem, according to Schuyler and Warner. This has led to a stray and feral population boom in the cities.

“A lot of them are abandoned – people let their cats out, but obviously there’s no leash law on cats, so they become lost,” Schuyler said. “They’re able to have so many litters within a year, so they keep re-proliferating over and over.”

Area shelters and cat organizations have stepped up to help control some of the cat problem with trap, neuter or spay-and-return programs. Save Our Cats, Kittens & Strays has spayed or neutered more than 7,000 cats since its founding in Gloversville in November 2002, according to organization spokeswoman Margaret Perrella.

SOCKS will not take stray cats in, but offers a low-cost alternative for spaying and neutering. It receives no government funding, but is funded through donations from businesses and private individuals.

“[Cats] can’t be regulated and it would be foolish to try,” Perrella said via email. “A possible solution could be a countywide spay/neuter program, possibly similar to the county rabies program. Again, it comes down to personal responsibility and accountability.”

The Brennan Humane Society has operated since 1972, and will occasionally pick up stray cats in Gloversville, space permitting. The shelter has space to house roughly 55 cats at any one time, according to administrator Denise Feldle. Last year, the shelter took in 483 cats and dogs, which were all either adopted or placed in rescues.

Brennan contracts with 12 municipalities in the area, and also runs a community spay and neuter program.

“We refer a lot of people down to the Animal Protective Foundation [in Schenectady] if they can’t afford the local vets,” Feldle said. “Other than that, everything we send out is spayed or neutered if it is old enough to be.”

Michelle Lautman, who runs the Gloversville Cat Sanctuaries and Information Center in Gloversville, takes in sick or injured cats. She transports cats to the Homes for Orphaned Pets Exist Animal Rescue once a week, where the cats are treated, neutered or spayed. Once the cats are treated, Lautman either keeps them or finds homes for them.

According to Lautman, neutering and spaying is the most important thing people can do to help combat the stray-cat issues in the cities.

“When these guys get out, they’re just going to procreate in an environment that’s unhealthy,” Lautman said. “You get all these animals in one location together, and it breeds illness and disease. The best way to stop it is track, neuter and release to control the colonies.”

The Regional Animal Shelter, which was founded as a nonprofit in 2002 and has operated its annex building on West Fulton Street in Gloversville since 2012, cannot house cats but is working to change that. According to board member Renee Earl, the organization has applied for numerous grants to build a new facility on 26 acres on the corner of Maple and Perry streets in the city and town of Johnstown.

Earl said the organization would need about $100,000 to build the facility, although the entire facility it has planned could end up costing $1 million. A contractor, Bruce Reed of Reed Construction in Broadalbin, has agreed to help build the new shelter once funds are obtained, Earl said.

“I think that the city needs to work with the Regional Animal Shelter and the surrounding rescue groups,” Earl said. “We’re not going to be able to solve the problem overnight, but I think if everybody works together, we can come up with a solution to help, that is – it’s going to be a team effort. The city can’t do it alone; we can’t do it alone.”