In Quebec, and in the Outaouais region, there are many feral cats living in colonies, which, because they are not sterilized, reproduce rapidly, contributing to the problem of cat overpopulation in many areas. To assist in the humane and responsible management of the cat population, Capture-Sterilization-Release-Maintenance (CSRM) programs, also known as TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) are often implemented by local volunteer organizations, in partnership with large shelters or veterinarians.
One such program in our area, and one that the SPCA de l'Outaouais is proud to work with, is the one operated by Animal Aide Pontiac. We spoke with their dedicated manager, Ms. Morris.
Why are you involved in the work of Animal Aide Pontiac, and how did you get started?
In 2018, I volunteered to take over the management of Animal Aide Pontiac when the former president, the founder of the group, retired. As a result, I took over all the administration of our organization, from taking phone calls, to posting on social media and returning emails, to coordinating transportation and providing financial assistance for pet spay/neuter. I work closely with our new President on all financial decisions. As of 2019, we have decided to focus on spay/neuter primarily because of its importance.
What is the main goal of Animal Aide Pontiac?
Our main goal is to get as many cats spayed or neutered as possible! Since October 2021, we have dedicated our program to the capture-sterilization-release (CSR) of stray, colony, and farm cats only. We are focusing on the most at-risk populations in Pontiac, cats without owners, as these are the ones contributing to overpopulation. Prior to this realignment to the CSR only, we had done over 200 adoptions in the last three years, the vast majority (99%) of which were from outside, abandoned kittens or moms and babies, and most of which required veterinary care.
How do you explain the concept of capture-sterilization-release (CSR) to people who are not familiar with it? Why is it important?
It's as simple as the letters in the acronym! We capture the cats (sometimes with the help of the public once properly trained), pick them up and transport them to veterinarians to be sterilized, vaccinated and microchipped, before releasing them in the same place where they were caught. Simple as that!
It is important to understand that we are NOT a cat rescue service, and that citizen participation is essential, as is their financial support for surgeries. Generally, Animal Aide Pontiac covers the costs because people don't understand why they should pay if the cat doesn't belong to them. But we've also worked with farmers who were very happy to support us, or communities who rallied to raise funds because they see how this kind of service helps reduce new litters of strays, and even the spread of disease among animals in their area. Because the cats that go through the CSR program are seen by the veterinarian, spayed or neutered, and vaccinated, it reduces the presence of certain viruses and other diseases transmitted between unvaccinated cats.
How did the collaboration with the SPCA de l'Outaouais begin?
One of the veterinarians who work at the SPCA de l’Outaouais was also involved with our shelter activities in the past. She saw us sometimes driving to Montreal or North Bay to get the animals spayed or neutered, and the difficulties we had in finding affordable care options for the cats we trapped. So the veterinary team at the SPCA de l'Outaouais got together and offered us a pilot project in early 2021. An offer we could not refuse!
It was not financially viable for us to continue the way we were operating. The time and mileage required was piling up, and the financial burden of it all was too much for our organization funded entirely by donations and the personal income of the people involved. Thanks to this partnership, our costs have been dramatically reduced and we have been able to recruit more volunteers to help with transportation. We still invest an incredible number of hours in trapping, transporting, and tracking, but because we don't have to cover as much distance to provide care, we've been able to help more of these homeless cats who live outside. And we have tons of people who are happy to support us in all of this with donations and fundraising of all kinds!
Looking back on the year that ended, what are your biggest successes in 2021?
Our biggest success is the number of cats we were able to help! We were able to get over 600 cats spayed or neutered, 279 of which were specifically helped through the SPCA the l’Outaouais team and our CSR pilot project. And we know that we can continue to help stray and colony cats in the Pontiac region because we can count on the collaboration of your organization.
What would be your message to the animal advocates reading this article?
Thank you! To all the animal lovers who read this, thank you, we couldn't do this without you. Your donations are what allow organizations like Animal Aide Pontiac - and the SPCA de l'Outaouais! - to provide these services and care to animals in need. Without your donations and fundraising, too many ownerless animals would continue to suffer. We hope that one day the public will have access to capture-sterilization-release services offered by organizations like yours, because we believe that the efforts of CSR must continue, whether our group Animal Aide Pontiac exists or not!
Thank you Ms. Morris and thank you to all your volunteers at Animal Aide Pontiac!
The Capture-Sterilization-Release-Maintenance programs are specifically designed for stray cats that are not good candidates for adoption but are still part of our community ecosystem. Implementing a CSRM program is an effective, long-term humane alternative for managing cat populations. You can keep track of CSRM projects in the Outaouais by searching in your area, or by visiting the CSRM Program page of our website.