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Feral cats defy easy fix


Town hears plea from woman trying to help solve dilemma

ANCRAMDALE–Feral cats are among us. And without intervention, they multiply at an alarming rate.

Beverly Ditto, an Ancramdale resident and airbrush artist by trade, has taken it upon herself to help feral cats and the people who find themselves overwhelmed by them.

Using a trap, neuter, release program, Ms. Ditto has captured 85 feral cats since 2007, had them neutered, vaccinated and released them, if possible, back where she found them. When she can’t re-release them she finds them a new home. Each cat that has gone through the program is identified with an ear notch.

She wants to do keep doing this completely volunteer community service, but she needs money to pay for the neutering and vaccinations, including rabies, and that’s why she appeared before the Ancram Town Board at its March 18 meeting.

Ms. Ditto’s efforts have previously been supported to a great extent ($1,100 last year) by the Ancramdale-based Neighbors Helping Neighbors community group, which initially asked Ms. Ditto for help controlling the rampant feral cat population in the Ancramdale hamlet.

Working with Animalkind Inc., a not-for-profit “welfare, protection, rescue, rights organization dedicated to the compassionate care and humane population control of abandoned, feral and stray cats” in Hudson and surrounding areas, Ms. Ditto gets cats neutered and vaccinated for $30 each; Animalkind covers the other half of the cost.

The same services at the Columbia-Greene Humane Society cost $65. At a veterinarian’s office the neutering alone would cost $60 to $125, depending on whether the cat is male or female, she said.

Ms Ditto already has 27 cats in need of services right now, and she asked the Town Board for $300 to get them and 3 others taken care of.

In making her pitch to the board, Ms. Ditto made numerous points, including that local people call her for help. Among them are farmers, whose farms are overrun with cats, because people dump them there, thinking they will be fed. People also call when they find cats have given birth under their houses or in their basements or outbuildings and don’t know what to do or cannot afford to do anything about it.

One man who tried to remove a feral cat from his basement was bitten and had to undergo post-rabies exposure shots, she reported.

“Farmers are being stuck with more and more cats. Farmers have enough problems of their own; it’s not fair to put all the problems on farmers,” she said.

Also, elderly people “come to me desperate. They want to keep their cat, but it keeps going into heat and they can’t let it out” and they cannot afford to pay the amount of money it will cost to get the cat spayed, she said.

It’s not just the farmer’s problem because “cats do not see a boundary,” Ms. Ditto said.

Euthanizing all feral cats is not the answer, because once the cats are gone, rodents move in. Also, something drew the cats to a particular location to begin with, and when they are removed, others will take their place in a phenomenon called “the vacuum effect,” said a woman who identified herself as Denise, an Animalkind volunteer.

People at the meeting said that if the town’s animal control officer had to deal with the cats, it would cost the town more money.

After Supervisor Art Bassin’s statements earlier in the meeting asking department heads to hold the line on any unnecessary spending this year, Councilwoman Madeleine Israel called Ms. Ditto’s efforts “admirable,” but said the board would have to consider the matter for the 2011 budget.

Councilman Jim Miller also called the cause “worthwhile” but said the town is “cash-strapped” right now.

Supervisor Bassin offered to send out a townwide email seeking donations to the cause.

Just when it seemed that Ms. Ditto would go away from the meeting empty-handed, Councilman John MacArthur, who has never expressed a fondness for cats, stood up, took a ten-dollar bill from his pocket and pronounced it “the first contribution to the cause.”

People began streaming up to the front of the room to add their cash and checks to the pile and by the end of the meeting, $335 had been collected, Ms. Ditto said in a subsequent phone conversation. “I was completely shocked.”

Also before she left the meeting, Ms. Ditto said she received an additional $165 that was the result of a collection taken up by The Firehouse Deli in Ancram.

To contact Ms. Ditto email

To contact Diane Valden email

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