It’s Complicated

It doesn’t matter where you lie on the subject of feral cats, it’s a complicated issue and passions run deep.  The SPCA looks to experts for guidance, in this case, Alley Cat Allies, the only national advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and improving cats’ lives.

Since the spring of 2015 local leadership from Community Cat Advocats and Dakotas Dream Animal Rescue have helped manage a colony of five feral cats on the grounds of the SPCA. From the beginning SPCA volunteers and staff joined in to create a model environment for these outdoor cats. In fact, many of your donations have supported these cats, too. However, at an annual inspection last August the State Animal Shelter Inspector cited the SPCA for maintaining these cats at large. This was a significant finding of noncompliance and needed to be addressed.

Internal discussions and outreach to other Virginia animal welfare organizations ensued.  While we aren’t the only animal shelter to care for feral cats on shelter property, we might have been the most zealous about it.

In early December one of the colony members was struck by a car and killed, leaving us with four. She was cremated and staff spread her ashes near her home on our grounds. Around that same time this colony was on the front page of the Winchester Star in an unfavorable article on feral cats. Ugh.

Focusing on the State Inspection Report the SPCA weighed all the options and the decision was to relocate the entire colony intact.  Again following Alley Cat Allies, relocation is always the last resort.

The same volunteers from Community Cat Advocats and Dakotas Dream Animal Rescue who helped care for this group, stepped in to trap and move the colony. They identified both suburban and rural options for relocation, but given the city roots of these cats, rural options were ruled out.

After Valentine’s Day, after months of preparation, every outdoor cat at the SPCA was trapped and transferred to a newly constructed confinement space to start their transition. Staff will tell you it’s not the same without them here at the SPCA, but we understand they are doing well. To comply with the State Inspection the SPCA has removed their feeding station and all of their shelters.

There is still a place for you in this story.  If you want to help them have a happy ending, Dakotas Dream Animal Rescue has placed three of the four feral cats up for adoption at the Winchester Petsmart. Community cats need love, too.


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