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Friends of Homeless Felines to attend council meeting

| Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

Members of Friends of Homeless Felines plan to attend Scottdale Council's next meeting Sept. 9.

Their issue of concern: a motion approved Aug. 12 to have a stray feline service through Hoffman Kennels, with whom the borough has a stray dog service.

“We have a cat problem,” said Angelo Pallone, borough manager, at the time.

The deal charges the borough $55 per call to capture a stray cat. If the owner of the cat is identified that is who will be charged the $55.

Friends of Homeless Felines has been in operation in Scottdale for 10 years and promote reducing the population of stray and feral cats through a process called trap-neuter-return.

“We come in when a resident calls us to help get a cat spayed or neutered,” explained Connie Gentry, who has been president of Scottdale's Friends of Homeless Felines since January. “It has to be a stray. We set a trap, take the cat to Scottdale Veterinary, where it's spayed and neutered and receives a rabies shot.”

Gentry said there is also a tag placed on the cat's left ear indicating that it has been neutered, then it is returned to the location from where it was trapped.

Gentry and other members of the group do not feel there is a problem with cats in Scottdale.

“We have gotten so few phone calls this year. Numbers have been down over the past several years,” Gentry said. “Most of (the group members) have a pretty tight finger on the pulse of cat activity.”

Gentry said the sight of a cat in the borough that was said to be acting weird, giving the indication that it had rabies, may have frightened people. She said the cat was actually hit by a car, which would lead to the same characteristics for a cat. Gentry added that it is rare for a disease to be transmitted from felines to humans.

According to statistics from Alley Cat Allies — a national trap-neuter-return organization based in Bethesda, Md. — there have only been 40 reported cases of feline to human rabies since the 1970s.

“It seems to be more of a reaction to specific circumstances,” she said. “Some of the complaints are that (the cats) are spraying or yelling. When they get fixed that kind of behavior is greatly reduced. They're not as aggressive when they've been spayed or neutered, especially males.”

One of the concerns of the group is that a pet cat may get loose and be trapped and even “put down.”

“We're a humane alternative,” Gentry explained. “Most people who contact us, even if they don't like cats, don't want to see it killed, they just don't want 30 kittens in their yard.”

Gentry said the number to call for Friends of Homeless Felines is 724-610-9292.

“If somebody calls that number, a volunteer calls back and sets up an appointment to trap the cat,” Gentry said.

Pallone said there have been concerns raised to him about some cats.

“We had one that was diseased and died,” Pallone explained. “We don't have a cat catcher. If it's got disease, who knows about other cats. The lady is scared to allow her kids in the back yard. With the theory the cat goes back to the colony, it's not away from the homeowner that doesn't want it there. Homeowners have the right to have their property clean.”

Pallone stressed that the contract is not signed yet, it just has been approved.

“It's not that I hate cats and the borough has not taken the position that we're going to kill cats,” Pallone said. “We're here to solve the problem. It's humans who aren't being responsible and we're paying the price.”

Southmoreland has continued to address something identified as a problem — skunks. Pallone said 51 skunks have been removed from the borough this year.

“Our problem with skunks is compounded with people not putting garbage in garbage cans,” Pallone said. “We have an ordinance. Keep garbage in the garbage cans.”

Gentry hopes having group members at the next council meeting can lead to some discussion and awareness on the matter.

“We offer an alternative to trapping them at the borough's expense,” she said.

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or ppaterra@tribweb.com.

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