SPCA advice on stray kittens: Shoot them

PETRICE TARRANT AND MIKE MATHER
Last updated 05:00 10/04/2014
Jess Woodcock with three of the kittens at the centre.
BRUCE MERCER
CATASTROPHIC: Waikato SPCA small animal team leader Jess Woodcock with three of the kittens at the centre.

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Megan Keen was horrified when she rang the local animal shelter for advice on what to do with 12 stray cats and kittens running around her Tokoroa property.

Keen was told she had three options: Do nothing, take them to the vet to get euthanised, or take them to a farm to be shot "humanely".

"I got off the phone and thought, ‘Did that really happen?'."

She said she was expecting the South Waikato SPCA to take the kittens at least, and re-home them.

But, centre manager Lorna Hutchinson said, they can't do the impossible.

"When people say, ‘We've got cats', and we tell them we've got no more space, then they get cross." But the only people who consider stray cats pests are the ones calling up, she said.

"Everyone thinks the SPCA should take care of stray cats, but there's no cruelty in being a stray cat."

Hutchinson said people seemed to prefer euthanisation by a vet over "humanely" shooting cats, but at $15 a pop, someone had to foot the bill.

"People say, ‘Well I can't afford that'. But we can't either."

The SPCA's Tokoroa facility can house up to 70 cats and kittens and was at full capacity.

She said the money to euthanise the cats and kittens had to come from somewhere. The South Waikato SPCA's entire income comes through fundraising, and they barely had enough to feed the animals, let alone euthanise them.

If people were unhappy with the service they needed to dig deeper into their own pockets or start lobbying the South Waikato District Council to work with the SPCA, Hutchinson said.

"If the council would get on board and work with us with some funding, we could manage the stray and feral population a lot better."

"They are a community problem, not an SPCA problem," she said.

However, council regulatory group manager Sharon Robinson said they had never received a formal submission for funding from the SPCA.

"The SPCA can submit on council's annual plan for financial assistance.

"This would be discussed and deliberated on by council as part of the annual planning process."

Robinson said councils were not legally required to deal with cats, however.

Royal New Zealand SPCA chief executive Ric Odom said while he would never advocate shooting kittens as a means of disposing of them, Hutchinson and her colleagues were in a desperate situation and he had a lot of sympathy for them.

"The SPCA's point of view is that the preferred form of euthanisation is a lethal injection administered by a vet.

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"I'm not advocating shooting, but what other options are available?

"I really feel for Lorna and her team. They are trying to do their best with very limited resources. There is a public expectation that we be able to deal with these cats, but it is really hard. We get no government funding. We get by through self-generated funding, through op shops and the suchlike, and the generosity of New Zealanders.

"From time to time we get overwhelmed. The council there is aware there is a stray cat issue, but they don't want to pick up the issue because there is a cost involved. They should be working with us to beat this problem."

Waikato SPCA executive officer Sara Elliott-Warren said it was not appropriate to comment on the affairs of their South Waikato counterparts, but they were also at full capacity.

"On site we would have about 55 but there are another 360 in foster homes.

"This is our peak time of year. People think that it is just before Christmas, but there is a second, bigger wave of kittens that hits us around April and May."

Because recent summers had been longer and warmer, that equated to more cats breeding - and more kittens to deal with.

"But that's nothing new. It's been like that for a few years now. That's just one of the effects of global warming for you."

- Waikato Times

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