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Lorain trap-neuter-release program in the works

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    Corinne Blackstone, with Fit-It Elyria, explains how cat populations can multiple over the years, and how a Trap-Neuter-Release program can help curb feral cat populations in an area at a meeting Wednesday in Lorain.

    CARISSA WOYTACH / CHRONICLE

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LORAIN — Residents in Lorain are attempting to curb the city’s feral cat population by starting a trap-neuter-release, or TNR, program.

Spearheaded in part by Councilman Dennis Flores, D-2nd Ward, a handful of residents met with humane officer Sue Hixson from Friendship Animal Protective League, and Corinne Blackstone, from Fix Elyria, to discuss what Lorain residents would need to do to start a TNR program. Flores said there are an estimated 9,000 feral cats in the city and no program or ordinance to help mitigate the ever-growing population.

“I’ve been on council for over 10 years and involved with the city maybe 20 years, but the council clerk used to get calls about the feral cats and the cat problems … and so what we found out was we didn’t have anything for feral cats outside of the health department, and they didn’t really provide (much),” he explained.

Now, Flores and other residents are looking to piggyback off Fix Elyria, which services Elyria, North Ridgeville and Grafton, to catch strays, spay or neuter them and bring them back to where they were caught to keep new feral cats out.

Blackstone explained that Fix Elyria falls under Friendship APL’s “umbrella” and was originally funded in part by grants secured by Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda. The group provides education — including how to humanely keep feral and stray cats off property — as well as TNR services.

What makes a TNR group work is its volunteers, Blackstone said, and told Lorain residents they would need to find their core group of volunteers to keep their organization going.

Hixson agreed. Volunteers trap the cats and organize fundraisers to pay the roughly $35 for each cat to be spayed or neutered and receive a rabies vaccine.

“Five years ago, out in North Ridgeville when there was the ‘woodpile five,’ the kittens that the officer shot, that’s what started everything,” Hixson said.

After the incident, Friendship APL executive director Greg Willey was contacted by North Ridgeville residents who wanted to help curb the feral cat population in a more humane way. She said they donated money, but it wasn’t enough to cover all the costs. When Elyria joined the effort, Mayor Brinda secured grants, allowing the start of Fix Elyria.

“The first year we trapped close to 300 (cats) in Elyria,” Hixson said. “Then it’s gone down, and it’s gone down. We don’t get the number of kittens in anymore that we used to get. It’s working, but it’s taken five, six years to do this.”

While the work may be slow, Lorain TNR plans to start fundraising now to be able to start trapping next spring. The groups can’t trap cats in the winter, as freezing temperatures can cause the cats to injure themselves while in the cages.

Kathy Spinale, of Lorain, traps with Fix Elyria, and plans to work with Lorain TNR. While she’s only been with the Elyria organization for about a year-and-a-half, she’s no stranger to trapping feral and stray cats.

“There was just a really big need for (trapping), starting with feral cats in my own yard,” she said. “And then prior to that, I used to live in California out in the country and people used to dump cats out there … and so I would trap them, get them fixed and find homes and then of course there would be feral cats I would come across and I would trap them on my own without working with any kind of program, and just doing it and pay for it and I’d just release them back out into my neighborhood. So it’s just a love, I used to be a big dog person, now I’m a big cat person.”

Moving forward, she said the group needs to get fundraisers going and look into becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Flores agreed.

“Right now we’re going to try to do some fundraising, (hold) some more organizational meetings and try to plan out for next year when the season becomes available,” Flores said. “We hope to have the equipment and the group that will be able to go out and trap, (we’re trying) to assess the worst areas because they’re all over.”

He estimated the group would need approximately $40,000 — roughly $5,000 to $10,000 in seed money and the rest to get cats fixed — to run the program.

“It’s easy to say ‘No, we don’t have anything, sorry,’” he said. “But I felt that we had to find a way to solve our problem.”

For more information on meetings, donations needed and how to get involved, join the Lorain TNR group on Facebook.

This story has been updated to reflect that the Elyria group is called Fix Elyria.

Contact Carissa Woytach at 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.
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