Hazel's Story ... and why this matters to You!
Hazel, age 82, asked for help from KittiCo Cat Rescue. She gave us
permission to take photographs and tell her story. We are telling her
story, without her last name, because her story is the story of many of our elderly, disabled, and low income
Hazel lived without her family in a poor part of town where she cared for
25 cats, several of them pregnant. The cats, who she loved, were overrunning her property. She called animal rescue groups, but none would send help. Finally, she called Larry Powell, then a journalist for the Dallas Morning News, and begged him for help. He put her in touch with KittiCo Cat Rescue.
Hazel's modest home was in disrepair. The neighborhood was going through many changes. A rehabilitation center for the homeless was across the street, and she took a chance on a man she met there, offering him a room in her back yard, if he would help her with the cats.
KittiCo at first gathered food for her, which came to us through donations.
Hazel then asked a volunteer to meet her at the cool and pleasant florist
shop at Restland Funeral Home where she was going regularly to visit the grave site of her child. Wearing a pant suit and white canvas shoes,appearing neat and dignified, Hazel held herself up straight, and confessed to living on a government paycheck. Her right hand looked gnarled and crippled, perhaps from arthritis.
She asked for help trapping the cats and said she was at her wit's end.
Her vet refused to negotiate a group rate for spay/neuter, stating that the
clinic did not handle feral cats. When asked if she could pay even $5.00
to help KittiCo with surgery costs, she was silent. It seemed like such a
small amount. She was embarrassed. Then she explained that her son
had to help her pay utilities for the month and she had no spare money.
Even after her monthly check arrived, Hazel did not have enough money.
Animal Control in her Dallas suburb agreed to trap if she would pay a $45
deposit fee per trap. They said they would euthanize the cats with gas.
But a recent TV program showed how some cities were using car exhaust to euthanize. She became upset telling the KittiCo volunteer at the florist shop why she could not take cats to Animal Control.
Asked why she was feeding the cats, she told KittiCo's Executive
Director, Angie Thomas: "I know what it is to be hungry and I don't want
them to be hungry if I can help it." She used her few dollars, buying dried
food for the cats while the homeless man contributed money for canned
food. Unfortunately, they were both short on money and the cats were
increasing in number. At least four cats were pregnant and more could
be expected. Could we help?
After hearing this sad story, Angie Thomas and Melinda Judd took 30
KittiCo traps to her home on July 18th, 2004. They captured 20 cats the
first night. Though Hazel called the cats, many were feral and would not
come near. "It's all right," Hazel called to them, "nothing will ever happen to you while I'm around you; you're safe while I'm here." The cats in her yard were living comfortably sleeping, roaming and playing. There were Siamese, gray tabbies, black, white and black and white short hair. All trapped cats were taken the next morning to qualified veterinarians
where each was sterilized and given a rabies shot. Each was returned to
Hazel the following day.
Hazel's is the story of many of the elderly in our neighborhoods in every
city and town. Older and disabled people - who can barely buy food for
themselves and often cannot buy needed medicines - touched by
compassion and understanding for the suffering of animals, sacrifice the
little they have to share with others.
They start simply and innocently, moved by the hope of helping one cat
or one dog. But animals that are not spayed or neutered quickly give birth
to others. The numbers grow, more food is needed, and the problems
spin out of control. The animals wander into neighbors' yards and across
communities, the problems and complaints multiply.
Because these animal populations cannot be permanently eradicated
through euthanasia - a method used for decades which has not
controlled the problem - experts recommend the use of trap-neuter-return
programs, such as the one put in place for Hazel. If friends or neighbors
can help trap the cats, sterilize and return them, this helps control the
population in that area.
The fixed cats, when given a stable source of food, are territorial. They
patrol the area and tend to keep out other breeding cats. They are no
longer reproducing, and the combination of reduced breeding, territorial
patrolling, and attrition over time, decreases the population in that area.
This process takes time. Studies in San Diego, California, and Orange
County, Florida, have shown that these programs save hundreds of
thousands of dollars for cities and counties, and decrease impoundment
and euthanasia rates.
KittiCo Cat Rescue encourages people to take pride in your own
neighborhoods and to start trap-neuter-return programs. In that way,
each neighborhood can be part of the solution. Starting with the example
of one neighbor helping another, or making a talk to your neighborhood
association, these examples build upon each other, like stepping stones,
leading the way. This is a humane solution.
Trap-Neuter-Return also helps cities and taxpayers. When KittiCo Cat
Rescue researched the City of Dallas budgets for several years, and
compared our costs with theirs, we found that we can sterilize, vaccinate,
and release three cats for the money the City pays to impound and
euthanize one cat.
Since all cities across North Texas impound and euthanize animals by
the hundreds of thousands, the potential savings can mount into the
hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for even a single large city,
and over time can mount into millions of dollars. This is especially
important in these times of economic turmoil. Tell your neighbors and city
representatives about this pioneering, humane, and economic way of
addressing the tens of thousands of free-roaming cats in your city.
Your donations are needed and welcome. Thank you!
KittiCo Cat Rescue
P.O. Box 600447
Dallas, Texas 75360