A feral cat makes his way through the woods in Steuben, where Animal Control Officer Janet Robinson hopes to garner support for a trap, neuter, return program to effectively and humanely control the population of feral cats. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY JOHANNA S. BILLINGS

Humane solution sought for controlling cat colonies in Steuben

STEUBEN — Steuben resident Janet Robinson doesn’t want to see anyone suffer, especially those on four legs.

As such, she is working on founding an organization called Animal Lives Matter Also, or ALMA, the purpose of which would be to promote humane and effective methods of managing colonies of free-roaming or feral cats.

“There are way too many people that would be more willing to shoot them than take care of them,” said Robinson, who has served as Steuben’s animal control officer for the past two years. “It doesn’t work. And it’s not fair.”

Part of her mission is to educate the public on the benefits of TNR, or trap, neuter, return, through which cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian to be neutered and vaccinated. After recovery, the cats are returned to their home — their colony — outdoors, according to the website for the national advocacy group Alley Cat Allies. With TNR, kittens and cats that are friendly or can be socialized to people may be adopted out.

“TNR stops the breeding cycle of cats and therefore improves their lives while preventing reproduction,” according to the Alley Cat Allies website.

The organization says that removing and euthanizing feral cats is “futile.”

Robinson, an Alley Cat Allies supporter, hopes to educate the public about the benefits of TNR and why it works.

“If you take one from the colony, another one’s going to come in [and take its place]. It’s just not effective,” she said. “It’s not the cats’ fault. It’s the humans’ fault that caused this.”

Robinson recently contacted Marie Zwicker, who serves as animal control officer in several Hancock County towns and works with stray and feral cats through her own organization, Protecting Animals’ Welfare, or PAW. The two met for coffee.

“She was so excited to think that I was trying to do this in my town,” Robinson said. “She was great. She was my inspiration.”

Zwicker gave Robinson a lot of advice, which she is following, starting by registering the name of her organization with the state. She plans to make it into a 501(c)3 nonprofit but she has not had the means.

“It’s expensive,” Robinson said.

In order to succeed, the organization will need money. In March, Robinson attended the Steuben Board of Selectmen meeting to ask for funding.

She will need to file a petition signed by at least 25 registered voters, said Town Clerk Julie Ginn. Then, the issue would be placed on the annual Town Meeting warrant and Robinson would need to attend that meeting to answer questions.

“At this time, I really don’t know how the town would respond to the program,” Ginn said. “I think that a full presentation of it with more information than what was given to the board would be needed.”

Robinson is working on that, as well as on many other tasks required to get her plan off the ground.

“It’s harder than it seems,” she said.

She will begin putting the word out once she gets more organized, she said.

In the meantime, she would welcome volunteer assistance or donations. Robinson can be reached at 546-3321.

Johanna S. Billings

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Johanna S. Billings covers eastern Hancock County and western Washington County. An avid photographer, she lives in Steuben with her husband and several cats. She welcomes tips and story ideas. Email her at [email protected]

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