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Group tackles Mount Vernon feral cat problem

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By Rachel Christian

The Posey Humane Society has launched a new feral cat program, but the group says it needs support from the community to keep it going.

The non-profit organization began its Trap Neuter Release (TNR) program in an attempt to curb the growing population of ownerless felines in the area. These wild cats can become nuisances in the neighborhoods where they reside, but president of PHS Tina Parker said getting the animals fixed helps eliminate many of these problems.

“The males stop fighting and the females no longer have kittens they can’t take care of,” she said. “The number of cats naturally declines over time because there are no new cats to replace them.”

Getting the TNR program off the ground hasn’t been easy. PHS receives no funding from the city, county or state, yet it serves as the only place in Posey County for abandoned or feral cats. 

A group of volunteers raised around $2,000 in the fall to get the TNR program started. They also received a small grant for 30 spay/neuter vouchers from the Vanderburgh Humane Society.

There is an economical spay and neuter program at VHS that costs $50 to spay a female and $30 to neuter a male.

But with the number of “homeless” cats scattered across Mount Vernon, current funds and voucher credits will quickly be depleted.

That is, Parker said, unless people help contribute to the fund.

“If you have a feral cat issue in your neighborhood, and you can contribute $20, or whatever you can afford, those donations help keep the program going longer,” she said.

The PHS TNR program also needs volunteers – especially ones with vehicles.

The current unofficial “head volunteer” of the project is Christina Dugger, a Posey County resident who struggled with feral cats on her property for years.

When Dugger and her husband moved to their home on Copperline Road in 2010, they inherited a feral colony of 30 cats. It wasn’t long before the animals became a daily issue for the couple. The cats clawed through their garbage, fought and screeched all through the night and even started attracting larger animals like coyotes to the Dugga property.

There were other, more emotional reminders of the growing feral issue, too.

“I was finding little kittens, especially when it was cold, that just didn’t made it,” Dugger recalled. “No one wants to find that in their yard, it breaks your heart.”

The homeowner and Posey County native repeatedly called animal control and PHS, seeking some relief or assistance with the problem. But Dugger quickly learned that there is no official program in place in Posey County that addresses feral cats. When she called animal control, the answering machine told her to call the humane society. When she did that, staff told her there was simply no money or room at the shelter to accommodate the wild cats.

So, Dugger decided to take matters into her own hands.

About two years ago, she and her sister trapped a majority of the cats on her property and transported them to the VHS in Evansville. After picking them up the next day, Dugger released the felines back near her property. It wasn’t long after that Dugga saw many of the annoyances associated with the feral cats disappear.

“I’ve gone through it all first hand, so I know how frustrating it can be,” she said. “But this really did work.”

So, when Dugger learned that the PHS was trying to establish a TNR program locally, she was one of the first to volunteer.

“Sometimes you have to take up the fight, go out and tackle it,” she said. “I figured if I had been the one complaining so much, I should chip in and help be a part of the solution.”

The TNR program had its first successful trapping last week, with plans to trap and neuter 10 more this week. It is a modest start to a widespread problem that volunteers at PHS hope the community continues to support.

“It’s a good, humane solution,” Dugger said. “If we feed them, then let’s fix them. Otherwise, the problem will never get better.”

Those who are interested in donating or volunteering can contact the Humane Society at 812-838-3211, or visit the Facebook page Posey County Feral Cats.