Pet Talk: Feral cats need human care

Rene Knapp

This year marks the expansion of the Animal Population Control Program. There are two new phases, which should help reduce the pet overpopulation problem, at least in Connecticut.

For the first time since the state program was implemented in 1995, benefits will be provided, not just for feral cats but also to help low-income citizens vaccinate and sterilize their companion pets. This second phase expands the already successful Feral Cat Grant Program that started in 2007, which Helping Paws is fortunate enough to be part of.

Public Act No. 07-105, An Act Concerning the Expansion of the Animal Population Control Program, gives us the Low-Income and Feral Cat Grant Programs. There was a lot of hard work done to implement these new spay/neuter benefits for the companion animals of low-income Connecticut residents. No one worked harder than Helping Paws’ good friend, Frank Ribaudo.

Ribaudo came out to visit Helping Paws and visit some of our feral cat colonies to get a handle on the type of problems that exist in Connecticut. He really cares about getting the cat population under control and has done a lot to help organizations such as Helping Paws offer these vouchers.

The Feral Cat Grant Program, first introduced in 2007, awarded $40,000 in vaccination/ sterilization vouchers to 11 Connecticut nonprofit organizations, providing benefits for 500 feral cats.

In 2008, another $40,000 subsidized vaccination/sterilization benefits for an additional 500 cats. Helping Paws was part of those grants both years, and successfully used every voucher it was given, keeping the organization on the list to continue to ask for help for our ferals.

10 percent set aside

For this new year, the expanded version of the bill will dedicate up to 10 percent of program’s income to vaccinate and sterilize feral cats. The amount to be awarded is expected to be between $40,000 and $60,000.

The second part of the new legislation provides pet sterilization benefits for Connecticut residents who qualify for one of six low-income programs, as defined by the Department of Social Services. The APCP will dedicate 10 percent of its income, also expected to be between $40,000 and $60,000, to the low-income program.

Successful so far

The introduction of these new programs is largely because of the success of the agency's Animal Population Control Program, which has provided sterilization and vaccination to more than 50,000 pound pets since 1995. It helped reduce euthanasia in Connecticut by 50 percent and the number of impounded pets by nearly 33 percent.

Though we struggle in these difficult economic times, I know there are people who are feeding feral cats throughout New London County and would be willing to continue to care for them, but cannot afford to do the initial vet care. Helping Paws has been awarded a generous number of feral cat vouchers, and I encourage my readers who are caring for a colony to get in touch with me for veterinary help.

This year, Helping Paws is not part of the low-income program. Hopefully, in years to come, the organization also will be able to offer this type of aid to our county. However, Helping Paws does purchase a number of vouchers from its fundraising whenever it can afford to do so. Those vouchers are for low-income families.

So whatever your need, please call and leave a message. Remember, we are not taking any cats, but if you are willing to continue to care for your feral cat, we encourage you to call us.

Get in touch: For more information about the programs, call (860) 713-2507 or visit the agency’s Web site at