Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Help Me Howard: Stray Cats
They're common creatures in the shadows of South Florida roaming back alleys searching for food. We're talking about stray cats. Now, one South Florida woman wants to fix the feline frenzy in her area. But can she? Here's Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Helen loves cats, especially her Romeo.
Helen Bellomo: "He's on a diet."
Romeo is losing weight and Helen is losing sleep over some stray cats.
Helen Bellomo: "Come here, kitty."
Helen just moved to Hollywood and discovered her neighborhood was filled with cats.
Helen Bellomo: "They multiplied. There's about 30 at this point that I counted. I actually stopped counting."
Thirty cats, some pregnant, all of them making one big mess for Helen and her neighbors.
Helen Bellomo: "They're coming over into our area, they're going to the bathroom in our garden area. It smells really bad."
Helen wants to fix the problem, literally.
Helen Bellomo: "And there is just more and more. They just keep multiplying, and that's a problem that needs to be taken care of."
Helen's solution, capture all the cats, spay and neuter them, then bring them back. Some neighbors agree, some don't.
Helen Bellomo: "Some people are willing to help with the spaying and neutering, maybe trapping, but the other half is saying, 'No, put them down.'"
Now you may be thinking if Helen and her friends would stop feeding them, the cats would just go away, she says, "No."
Helen Bellomo: "If we weren't feeding them, they would go into our dumpsters."
Helen hasn't called Animal Control because she doesn't want the cats captured and killed, and other agencies just don't have the ability to help her out.
Helen Bellomo: "I've contacted a couple of non-profit agencies who are very busy right now with other trappings, spaying and neutering, and so they can't offer a lot of help right now, so that's why I'm here for, looking for some help."
Of course Helen could turn her back, go inside and forget about the strays, but she says abandoning them is just not right.
Helen Bellomo: "I can't sleep at night because I feel like the pressure's on me. I just moved here, I'm the youngest one in my area, and everyone else is asking for help, but nobody is really doing anything."
But even if Helen finds help, can someone just come in, catch stray cats, fix them and then release them? Sounds like a simple question, Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "You would think it's a simple question, but, believe it or not, this is a quagmire of laws that contradict each other. It varies from city to city and county to county, and many of those laws do conflict with federal law. But, the Bottom line in most cases, trapping is OK, the releasing can be illegal."
When we contacted the City of Hollywood they told us, they would provide the traps but need Helen to help transport the strays. They also say that while there are no city funds in the budget to spay and neuter cats, they do have a foundation grant money to fund the procedures but do need donations to finish the job. But, Howard, if it's illegal for Helen, Is it illegal for the City to release the animals?
Howard Finkelstein: "Because the City of Hollywood is doing it, it's not a problem, and, let's be honest, even if Helen or anyone was doing a public service by spaying cats and returning them to their neighborhood, I seriously doubt they would be arrested or prosecuted."
Helen's happy the cat situation may soon be under control but understands you don't have to stray far to find the problem somewhere else.
Helen Bellomo: "I don't think it's a losing battle. I'm focusing on the area that I live in. Obviously, I'd like to help everyone but, where I live, I'd like to take care of the community issue, make a difference."
Patrick Fraser: "Before the story even aired, we started getting e-mails and calls from people upset that we were encouraging people to go out and trap strays."
We're not asking you to do it, not asking you not to do it, just explaining the law in case you want to do it. And by the way, if you chose to trap and fix cats in your neighborhood make sure they are strays and not a neighbor's prized purebred that likes to roam around.
Trouble breeding more trouble in your home? Don't let it turn into a catastrophe. Contact us. We'll stray around, but we'll get a fix on the law eventually.
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