What, exactly, is it that CSC does? It is really very simple. 100,000+ cats live on the streets of Winnipeg. Where people have identified that this is a problem, we help them manage it in the following manner:
1. establish feeding stations to help determine how many cats are in the area, and maintain baseline health
2. trap all cats and kittens using specially designed feral cat traps
3. spay or neuter and vaccinate all trapped cats
4. remove kittens and friendly adult cats for adoption
5. return unsocialized adult cats to the place they were trapped
6. provide simple winter shelters to protect the remaining cats from our harsh weather.
These 6 simple things make huge changes in every area where community cats live:
1. nuisance behaviours stop almost immediately (fighting, yowling, spraying, smell)
2. no more kittens are born to the colony
3. all of the remaining cats become healthier
4. numbers start to go down immediately (friendly adults and all kittens are put up for adoption)
5. numbers continue to go down dramatically (70% in the first 5 years, 90% after 9 years)
Occasionally a new cat will migrate into a managed colony. These are trapped and assessed for TNR or adoption. The downward population trend remains unaltered.
This works. It works dramatically. It works in EVERY place where comprehensive management is established, and cost goes down every year. The highest cost occurs in the first two years of management, where many cats are being trapped for sterilization and adoption. After year two the only ongoing cost is food for a shrinking number of cats, occasional spay/neuter for a new cat, and occasional replacement of winter shelters.
In spite of our proven track record and over 30 years of good science supporting our efforts, we have been unable to convince Winnipeg that this is a worthwhile endeavor. Every year has seen increased demand for help managing community cats, but there has been no corresponding increase in support. Over the past year we have not been able to cover costs. For the first time in our history we are entering a new year with unpaid bills and no money in the bank.
Demoralized does not begin to describe the way I feel, right now. Having put almost 10 years of my life into a project in which I whole heartedly believe, it is heartbreaking to see it crumbling before me. In the past I have been able to cover outstanding amounts by raiding my retirement savings and using the full extent of my personal credit. I can no longer continue to do so. Craig Street Cats future cannot hinge on my personal ability to pay its bills.
Just over a year ago I sent out a press release to let Winnipeg know that Craig Street Cats could not continue without immediate and ongoing support. The result was that many people made immediate donations and pledged ongoing support. This convinced our board of directors to continue operations. Unfortunately, over 1/3 of those pledges were not honoured. Of the pledges made with credit cards, each month sees 1/4 to 1/3 of the charges fail to go through.
Before anyone hollers, 'geez here she goes crying for money again,' let me state that this is absolutely about money. This is also about a whole lot more:
This is about a city that demands service, but refuses to pay for it
This is about a city that refuses to recognize that without a reasoned, scientific approach to cat population management, the 'cat problem' will only get worse.
This is about the expectation that one person should cover the entire cost of a city wide program
This is about the refusal to accept that any person should make a living providing humane service to community cats
This is about the fact that Winnipeg truly does not value cats