Gerald and Brenda Aylward of St. Brendan’s are self-described animal lovers, but some new felines on their property have recently caused them grief.
The problem of feral cats is not unique to any one community. This photo of a cat wandering through a dumpsite was taken at the waste disposal site in Clarenville in 2013. — Photo by Kevin Curley/The Beacon
The couple’s problem began a several weeks ago when the town’s dump site was shut down as part of the provincial government’s initiative to close 43 dumpsites in central Newfoundland and Labrador.
Brenda said after the government closed the St. Brendan’s dumpsite, feral cats strutted through the community.
“There was probably a dozen cats or so,” she said. “It seemed like no one was paying attention to the fact the cats were here and their only source of food and shelter — the dump — was closed.”
In the spirit of giving, the couple decided to help out a family of cats that would have died inhumanely without intervention, she said.
“I said to my husband Gerald, ‘We’re going to have to start feeding these cats because we can’t just watch them starve.’ We started putting out food for them and then we had all the bitter snow and cold weather. The cats couldn’t even function or get around.”
The Aylwards own a farm that borders the old waste disposal site. A group of four to five cats took up residence under a shed on the couple’s property. The couple made an effort to keep them alive.
“However it happened the female with kittens ended up under our shed, “ said Brenda. “We think the rest must have perished from the cold or starvation because all we see are the ones we have.”
Their next effort was aimed at raising awareness of the issue in the community.
“We done what we could for the cats,” said Brenda.
“I put it on Facebook and a neighbour of ours donated some food to help feed them.”
The Aylwards contacted the SPCA.
“They gave us four blankets and some cages for us to try and help catch them,” said Brenda.
The couple would love to be able to afford costs to spay and neuter the wild cats, she said.
“What we would like to do is for someone to take them in and have homes for them, but we don’t know if that’s possible. I think they’re going to be put down.”
Bonnie Harris, manager of the Gander SPCA, said the cats will be examined once they reach the shelter.
“If they are feral cats there’s a good possibility we will euthanize them,” said Harris. “If the cats can be placed, we will certainly try our best to place them in homes. We’ll assess them once we get them here at the shelter.”
Harris agrees with the Aylwards when it comes to releasing the cats back into the wild.
“People jump on the bandwagon to trap, neuter and release the cats, but with our temperatures I don’t think that’s fair to the cats,” she said.
The Aylwards have been instructed to catch the cats on their property and put them on the St. Brendan’s ferry crossing for the SPCA to pick up on the other side.
That’s not standard procedure, said Harris, but Gerald is a former volunteer with the SPCA and they trust him to do the job humanely, considering his love for animals.
According to the SPCA manager, the Aylwards’ problem is not unique to their area.
The region has been dealing with feral cats since the dumpsites have been closing in Central Newfoundland and Labrador.
“It’s definitely a regional problem,” said Harris. “We are getting calls from a dozen different communities with the same issue of feral cats and, honestly, the numbers are so large we just can’t deal with it all at once.”
The SPCA has already dealt with wild cats in a number of communities throughout the region.
“We’ve been into Fogo, Cottlesville, and we’re getting complaints from Dover, Hare Bay, Summerford and the list just goes on and on,” said Harris.
The cost of euthanasia and vet bills is covered through fundraising, donations, adoption fees and Central Newfoundland Waste Management (CNWM), which will cover the costs of dealing with the cats on the Aylward property.
Ed Evans, manager of CNWM, said the company has been dealing with feral cats since the province has been shutting down waste sites in the central part of the island.
“We deal with the SPCA and they’ve been taking care of that matter for us,” said Evans.
The provincial government provided funds to CNWM to deal issues such as rodents and feral cats .
Gerald notified the CNWM
about the feral cat problem in St. Brendan’s.
“It’s only been in the last couple of weeks that it was indicted there was a feral cat issue out there,” said Evans.
Both the SPCA and CNWM want to make sure the problem is dealt with in a responsible manner.
“When the issue of feral cats came up we put a process in place with the SPCA to take care of that issue,” said Evans. “We’re dealing with the issue in the most humane way we know.”
Whenever there’s an issue with the cats CNWM is notified and the company consults with the SPCA to resolve the issue.
“We don’t deal with it directly, we go through the SPCA,” he said, stating the SPCA is known for its humane treatment of animals.
The emotional aspect of the issue is not lost anyone, said Evans.
“It’s not a real good story. It’s an issue that brings a lot of human emotion into play.”