Utah Inmates Give Feral Cats 2nd Chance
UTAH – Inmates at the Utah State Prison have done something amazing for a colony of feral cats living on the grounds. The prisoners have helped implement a Trap-Neuter-Return program.
USP substance abuse counselor Julie Cox says it all began when a large inmate walked up to her, cradling a kitten in his hands. “They're killing the cats,” he said, “Can you help out?”
According to the Deseret Morning News, a colony of abandoned felines lives in an open field next to the compound and grew into the hundreds because of overbreeding.
Over the last 10 years, animal control has responded to the cats by collecting them and putting them down. The problem is that in most cases the population returns, which is why that method is being phased out across the nation.
At Cox's request, No Homeless Pets in Utah's Holly Sizemore entered the picture to explain a better solution. Sizemore recommended a Trap-Neuter-Return program, which USP management agreed to implement with the help of the inmates.
No Homeless Pets in Utah covered the cost of fixing and vaccinating the felines. Cox and a few others pay for food for the animals out of their own pockets. And to provide shelter, inmates in a building-trade class built shelters for the cats.
Sizemore says the colony has benefitted from the recent changes. Many of the kittens and tame cats were able to be re-homed. The result – a colony that once held hundreds of cats has dwindled to a few dozen.
The best part is that the inmates can watch over the animals. Although not allowed to care for them, they can tell when one becomes ill or is injured. They can also report on new cats – which are then trapped, neutered, vaccinated and returned to the community.
The situation is unique, but other prisons have responded to feral cats in the same way. The ASPCA cut a feral cat community living on Rikers Island in half through Trap-Neuter-Return. Not only is it good for the animals, but it helps remind us that even though the inmates are criminals, they are capable of compassion.
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