American TNR volunteers struggle to get cats spayed/neutered due to shortage of vets
NEWS AND COMMENT-SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: The San Antonio Express News online has a disturbing story for cat advocates and lovers and those interested in helping feral cats. They need our help. It features the work of volunteer Elva Orosco who works with the San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition.
She is struggling to get her trapped feral cats spayed/neutered, vaccinated and checked over by a veterinarian. There are fewer vets and therefore fewer appointments. The report is that there is a nationwide veterinarian shortage in the US implying that Orosco is not alone in encountering this problem.
There are fewer veterinarians providing spay and neuter services to volunteers who trap feral cats under TNR organised programs. And this newspaper reports that the problem isn’t just in San Antonio but “all over the country”. The feral cats are getting pushed to the bottom of the priority list.
As a consequence, Orosco has to attend veterinary clinics in the early hours of the morning. Twice a week she sets her alarm for 7 am to grab one of those precious appointment slots at Animal Care Services (ACS). Or on other days she pops into the San Antonio Humane Society between midnight and 3:30 am.
There are 10 community cats’ surgery appointments at that time, and she grabs one of them. She has to place her trapped cat near the surgery door to grab her place in the queue. She is first and other trappers follow and make up the queue throughout the night.
She might wait until 4 am at which time there are 10 other cats and volunteers waiting in line. She coordinates with other volunteers throughout the night to ensure that “no one is sleeping in the parking lot alone”. She gets two hours sleep during these difficult nights.
It is an example of real dedication, but this voluntary work is not easy as it is. The shortage of appointments is making it much harder. Orosco says that she has never seen so few spay/neuter appointments available to volunteers.
Fortunately, Orosco is not working at the moment and therefore she can work around these problems. She admits that it is very difficult for volunteers who work and those that are seniors or disabled.
The problem with obtaining an appointment is feeding back into the trapping process because the volunteers don’t think they should trap cats as they can’t get them spayed and neutered.
To compound the problem, even with an appointment sometimes clinics turn away volunteers because the feral cat might be sick or too thin. This makes them unfit for surgery. How does that play out? Do they have to fatten up their cats before surgery? More work, more barriers to TNR. They’ll certainly have to pay out of their own pockets for veterinary treatment if their cat is sick.
Orosco also says that cats are sometimes declined surgery because the trapper has the cat in the wrong kind of trap. I don’t get that.
Orosco said: “We do it because we care about the cats who are suffering, starving, having babies and dying on our streets.”
San Antonio is very lucky to have people like Orosco. They work without a great deal of recognition from the community although their reward is to help the cats. They deserve more support. I admire her and fellow TNRers tremendously.