Activist has purrr-fect plan to save feral cats

May 09, 2014 at 10:18 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Jamie Scaffidi feeds a feral cat colony in Destrehan. Scaffidi traps the felines and spays or neuters them before releasing them to the wild.
Jamie Scaffidi feeds a feral cat colony in Destrehan. Scaffidi traps the felines and spays or neuters them before releasing them to the wild.
A Destrehan woman is on a mission to bring down the feral cat population in St. Charles Parish by trapping the felines and spaying or neutering them before retuning them to their outdoor homes.

Jamie Scaffidi, 50, can be seen traveling throughout the parish multiple nights per week caring for one of several feral cat colonies. She has captured nearly 1,000 cats, spaying or neutering each one.

“They call us ladies of the night because we go out at night and care for these animals and no one knows what we are doing,” Scaffidi said.

One feral cat colony Scaffidi cares for is on the edge of a popular commercial property in Destrehan. An overgrown area just off the parking lot obscures several makeshift homes for the animals, ranging from something as simple as a plastic trash can filled with bedding straw to a family-sized tent.  

The cats lurk around the edge of the parking lot where volunteers feed them twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

Scaffidi took two cans of wet cat food and tapped them together, drawing more than 20 cats out of the brush.

Altogether, she said around 40 cats live in that one colony.

“We spay and neuter them and provide winter boxes for them in the winter so we can provide warm shelter,” Scaffidi said. “We provide food daily, and if they are sick we trap them and take them to veterinarians to get them taken care of.”

In addition to trapping strays and providing them with basic care, Scaffidi also provides continuing care for the cat populations along with several other volunteers. The ones that have already been processed are easily identifiable because they have the tip of one of their ears clipped.

Scaffidi said she began caring for the cats about seven years ago, but over the last year and a half she has been working around four hours per night, four days a week.

That’s despite the fact that Scaffidi holds two jobs.

“I’ve easily done probably close to 600 to 700 cats in the past two years along with a friend of mine helping me,” she said.  

Now Scaffidi has set up a non-profit organization, Operation Purrr, and is reaching out to the St. Charles Parish Animal Shelter and the St. Charles Parish Council for help. She says her program will save taxpayers and the animal shelter from having to deal with the animals.

“After going through the program, when these cats die off they will not reproduce and the problems that we have had to deal with in the past will be minimized,” she said.

St. Charles Parish Animal Control Director Angie Robert said she is all for the program.

“I am all for spay, neuter and release because I think it is a wonderful thing. As a matter of fact we don’t euthanize cats that have tipped ears. When we get cats in who are ferals and have ear tips we try to find them a home,” she said.

However, Robert said she needs to find out how the programs are run in other areas before a similar program can be developed in St. Charles Parish.

“I’ve contacted the Louisiana SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in Orleans Parish because they have a spay and release ordinance  and I want to inspect theirs,” she said.

In the meantime, Robert said she has to follow parish ordinances that do not allow for animals to run free, which includes feral cats.

“They have to understand that when business owners don’t want them, our hands are tied,” she said.

But for the businesses and other property owners who do not mind feral cat colonies living on their land, Robert said she will not trap those animals unless they present an immediate hazard.

“Unless the people who own the property ask me to come trap them, I am not trapping them. The people who are taking care of these cats are obviously doing a good job,” she said.  

According to Scaffidi, not only would a change in parish ordinance help the animals, it would also save money.

“It is so important and it will save taxpayers dollars because they won’t have to use resources to gets animals euthanized. They would be able to use those dollars for other animals they are hoping to adopt out,” she said.

Operation Purrr, the St. Charles Parish Animal Shelter and members of the St. Charles Parish Council are currently looking at creating an ordinance that would apply to feral cat populations and a parishwide catch and release program.In the meantime, Robert said those looking to provide an outdoor home for feral cats can do so through the animal shelter.

“If anybody wants a feral cat it is $10 and $20 for the females who are fixed. If you talk to the Humane Society and want a bulk of them, they can give you a better price,” she said. “Our organization and their organization are all about pro life. We want to see them go out the front door.”

View other articles written Kyle Barnett

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