Humane Society’s Community Cat Program getting attention
Published 10:00 am Wednesday, January 25, 2023
BY LANCE GAITHER
The Danville-Boyle County Humane Society implemented its Community Cat Program in 2019 and has seen a drastic decrease in cats euthanized by the shelter. The Community Cat Program addresses the issue of outdoor cats in the community by humanely trapping them, neutering and vaccinating them, and then returning them to where they were originally caught. When they are being treated, their ear is clipped so that residents and Humane Society workers can know which cats have been vaccinated and neutered.
“When outdoor cats used to come into the shelter they got sick and stressed. They didn’t belong in a cage and they became unadoptable. We were euthanizing hundreds of cats a year,” said DBCHS executive director Kari Kuh. “At the end of 2019 we implemented the program after we got a grant from PetSmart and our euthanasia numbers immediately dropped. When you are fixing, vaccinating, and returning healthy outdoor cats to their original outdoor location, they stop nuisance behavior, stop making more animals, and contribute to herd immunity to rabies and other diseases. The cats are healthier and happier than being in a cage. Some people bring up that outdoor cats have a shorter life expectancy. The response is that if we know six or seven out of 10 cats that are brought here are going to be put down. It’s clearly better to give them a chance at life outdoors even if it is a shorter life expectancy. By taking this approach they were saving more lives, improving the lives of outdoor cats, and stopping constant breeding.”
Kuh didn’t know what to expect when the program was first implemented.
“We knew the data from other places that were doing it, but until you implement the program yourself you don’t have your own data. We were going in blind,” Kuh said. “At first it was a bit of a challenge, people have been trained to bring every animal they see that they think doesn’t have a home to the shelter. It was a huge mindset shift we had to do. We are still having to engage with the community to explain the reason behind the program. We are seeing support from the community to take care of the cats in a way that best fits the outdoor cat.”
The success of the program has caught the attention of multiple animal welfare groups and has been awarded a $15,000 grant by the Kentucky Branch of the Humane Society of the United States Shelter Ally Project.
“The grant was acknowledgment of the progress we have already made and an opportunity to refine our program and learn more,” Kuh said. “We spent about nine months doing different modules with HSUS ranging from trapping to how to manage kitten season. It culminated with a Cat Chat, a town hall where the public was invited to learn about the program and the next day we had workshops covering what we learned, Many area shelters and community members came, It was great for us and the community.”
On Friday, the Kentucky State Director of the HSUS Todd Blevins visited the DBCHS for the filming of a video showcasing the program.
“We are here to bring more awareness to what the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society has done with the program and their success,” Blevins said. “We also want to educate the public about why these programs are so important, why community cats matter, and all the ways people can help. The Danville-Boyle Humane Society model for the program is one of the best in the state, they do such good work. We are hosting and advocacy and education video in February where the video will premiere but all of us will be sharing the video any way we can. If you are someone who cares about cats or these sorts of issues this video will be just thing for you to learn a little but more about how you can help.”
The video will be posted on the DBCHS Facebook page once it has debuted.