Animal advocates and Newfane town officials have reached an agreement on how to tackle the feral cat problem near the town marina in this Lake Ontario hamlet.
Some members of the Town Board met last week with a handful of people concerned with animal welfare and will soon sign an agreement allowing them to trap, neuter, vaccinate and return the cats to the area, Newfane Supervisor Timothy Horanburg said.
The cats gather around the harbor on the west side of Eighteen Mile Creek, where it empties into the lake, Horanburg said. Volunteers will also set up feeding stations to lure the cats away from boats docked at the marina and away from waterfront cottages, where complaints have been loudest.
"People feel overwhelmed at times, but this is all very workable," said Edie Offhaus, a co-founder of Feral Cat Focus. Offhaus said her group has handled similar projects throughout Western New York since its founding nearly a decade ago.
Offhaus emphasized the importance of educating the public on creating a controlled colony with healthy spayed or neutered cats.
The group first will go door-to-door to identify nonferal cats, encourage that the cats be tagged and collared, and that they be spayed or neutered. Then, they will identify unknown friendly and feral cats, which will be box-trapped and transported to Operation Pets in Lackawanna to be spayed, neutered and vaccinated before being returned to Olcott.
Friendly cats or kittens not owned by families will be put up for adoption through the Niagara County SPCA, Offhaus said.
As for the fate of the feral cats after the operation: "Just through attrition, the numbers will go down," Offhaus said.
The town will post signs warning the public not to abandon any more cats or feed the cats.
"We're going to work with them, and we're going to pay for and put up some signs and see if the Town Board wants to put any money into this [program] -- especially if we see some results coming from it," Horanburg said.
"I sit at the marina every morning and I get complaints," he said. "We have charter boats and people renting cottages there, and the cats are making a mess."
The issue drew about 60 people to a Town Board meeting earlier this month, where town officials heard from angry cottage owners and charter boat captains.
"We will be doing a cat census of the area, hopefully, within the week; it's not that big of an area, and it's very doable," said Jane Voelpel, an Olcott resident and treasurer of Save-A-Pet of Niagara County.
Elizabeth Allore, a veterinary technician at Countryside Veterinary Clinic in Lockport, and her husband, Kenny, set up a "Help the Olcott Cats" account at Bank of America to help cover the cost of transporting, spaying/neutering and vaccinating the cats at Operation Pets in Lackawanna and to build feeding stations. Donations are still being sought, with a matching challenge in place.
"We will probably need another $1,000 to do this project, and part of our goal is to donate cameras to the town to be set up down there, and we'll use any money we have left over for that," Allore said. "We need the cameras, because this is a popular dumping ground for cats, and that's illegal."
For more information on Feral Cat Focus, visit feralcatfocus.org or call (888) 902-9717.