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Cat stats worry welfare groups

Statistics gathered from pounds in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo show a 25 percent increase in cat euthanizations from 2006 to 2007, a figure that worries some local animal welfare agencies.

Denise Randall

Statistics gathered from pounds in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo show a 25 percent increase in cat euthanizations from 2006 to 2007, a figure that worries some local animal welfare agencies.

"We looked at the (2007) numbers and all of our hearts sunk," said Lori Magelky, founder of Minn-Kota PAAWS Project. PAAWS stands for People Advocating Animal Welfare Services.

Tara Pearson, president of Adopt-A-Pet of Fargo-Moorhead, said the increase could be due to pet neglect or owner oversight.

"The last couple of years, fewer and fewer animals are getting claimed by their owners," Pearson said.

Terry Stoll, supervisor of the Fargo Animal Pound, said about 70 percent of impounded dogs are claimed, compared to only 10 percent of cats.


"Some people are used to their cats being gone for three or four days," Stoll said.

In Fargo and West Fargo, owners have three business days to claim their pet. Moorhead allows five business days.

"There are always cats around," said Adopt-A-Pet volunteer Elizabeth Esser. "If people would just keep them indoors, that would make a big difference."

Fargo and Cass County send impounded cats and dogs to Valley Veterinary Hospital, while Moorhead, Dilworth, Glyndon and the rest of Clay County use F-M Animal Hospital. West Fargo sends impounded animals to the West Fargo Animal Hospital.

Population control

Esser said weather might affect the number of impounded and euthanized cats because many feral cats freeze to death during cold winters. If there is a mild winter, more cats make it into the pound.

But Stoll said he does not believe the weather has much to do with cat population fluctuations. Instead, he attributes the population changes to the breeding cycles of cats.

After feral cats are cleared out of an area, the population will stay down for a period, only to increase again over time, he said.


PAAWS volunteer Carol Sawicki said a cat can have three litters a year with each litter producing an average of six to eight kittens.

"They are breeding in huge proportions," said F-M Humane Society Executive Director Nukhet Hendricks. "Euthanization is not a (form of) population control we should use."

Fixing the problem

PAAWS volunteers hope to see fewer cats euthanized in 2008 as a result of their work.

"Our efforts are really geared toward the cats," Magelky said.

PAAWS helped provide low-cost spay and neuter services to nearly 1,500 dogs and cats in the Fargo-Moorhead area last year.

"They are doing wonderful work in helping to decrease the (cat) population," Esser said.

In 2004, PAAWS vets performed 97 spay or neuter surgeries.


Since PAAWS moved into its south Fargo office facility in 2006, the group has been able to perform more surgeries, Magelky said.

So far this year, the non-profit has already spayed or neutered more than 800 dogs and cats.

Magelky said her goal is to see the number of PAAWS surgeries reflected in the impounded cat population.

She hopes the number of cat euthanizations will decrease steadily over the next few years.

For now, local animal adoption agencies such as Adopt-A-Pet and the F-M Humane Society have more cats than they can find homes for.

"It would be an easy problem to fix if people would just be responsible," Magelky said. "Getting a pet is a lifetime commitment."

"It gets really discouraging at times, but at least we save what we can save," Esser said. "We're always looking for good homes that can foster for us."

"Shelters need the public's support, not only financially, but for adoption," Hendricks said. "It would be great to have people look at the shelters first."


Readers can reach Forum reporter Alyssa Schafer at (701) 235-7311

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