(CATS/ANIMAL ACTIVISM) Great Meadow Correctional Facility in New York is one of the many institutions now taking part in a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program for feral cats living on its grounds. With TNR programs, cats are humanely trapped, spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and then eartipped to help keep unsocialized feral cats out of shelters.

More than 430 districts nationwide embrace TNR programs, and several prisons are introducing TNR programs to help control feral cat populations while offering valuable enrichment to inmates and staff members. Read on to learn more about how TNR programs and correctional institutions are keeping cats off death row. — Global Animal

An Alley Cat Allies staff member returns a cat after it has been neutered, vaccinated and eartipped (the universal symbol for a neutered and vaccinated cat) by a veterinarian. Photo Credit: Alley Cat Allies
An Alley Cat Allies staff member returns a cat after he/she has been neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped (the universal symbol for a neutered and vaccinated cat) by a veterinarian. Photo Credit: Alley Cat Allies

Alley Cat Allies

Great Meadow Correctional Facility in New York made headlines for accepting four unexpected inmates to the maximum security prison. Staff discovered the litter of kittens and immediately began providing them the bottle-feedings and veterinary care they needed.

As Great Meadow’s deputy superintendent of administration said, “a kitten’s tough to ignore,” and many staff members have made visiting the kitty condo a highlight of their workday.

The idea of four rambunctious kittens being raised in a maximum security prison might seem extraordinary, but many prisons have outdoor cat populations.

Kittens aren’t common at Great Meadow because the institution takes part in a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program for the feral cats on its grounds. Prison TNR programs, like Great Meadow’s help keep unsocialized cats out of shelters where a ‘death sentence’ awaits them. Over 70% of cats who enter a shelter are killed there, and for feral cats that rises to virtually 100%.

As part of a TNR program cats are humanely trapped, spayed/neutered, vaccinated and eartipped—the tip of the left ear is removed while the cat is anesthetized to identify the cat as neutered and vaccinated. After a short recovery period they are returned to their outdoor homes.

Feral cats—commonly referred to as community cats—are the same species as pet cats, but are not socialized to people, and therefore are not candidates for adoption. Photo Credit: Alley Cat Allies
Feral cats—commonly referred to as community cats—are the same species as pet cats, but are not socialized to people, and therefore are not candidates for adoption. Photo Credit: Alley Cat Allies

Trap-Neuter-Return has become mainstream. In fact, more than 430 municipalities nationwide have embraced TNR, and numerous prisons have started TNR programs to save cats and offer valuable enrichment to inmates and staff. Inmates are often the cats’ primary caregivers and their biggest supporters, constantly advocating for the cats, with whom they form deep bonds.

Alley Cat Allies is currently working with Bayside State prison in Leesburg, N.J. to maximize the effectiveness of their TNR program. Since 2005, inmates have been responsible for humane trapping, monitoring recovering cats after surgery, and providing daily care for colonies. A well-organized spay day will make sure the remaining cats are sterilized and make Bayside a model prison TNR program. The list of prisons that have adopted TNR include the Gatesville, Texas Crain Unit Prison, Montana State Prison, and New York’s Rikers Island.

It’s not just TNR programs that help keep cats off death row. More and more correctional institutions are introducing adoption programs for cats whose time at the shelter would likely run out before an adoption came through. These programs offer inmates a uniquely powerful rehabilitation tool and give cats another chance at life. When cats enter the shelter, they are matched with inmates to help the cats prepare for life in a home. The inmates have the time and motivation to work with cats who may need special attention. Similar programs are in place at Monroe Correctional Complex and Larch Corrections Center in Washington, Madison Correctional Institution and Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution in Ohio, as well as Pendleton Correctional Industrial Facility in Indiana.

Americans want cats to be treated humanely. Prison Trap-Neuter-Return programs and adoption programs are proof that this is true even within the walls of a maximum security prison. Grand Meadow’s four kittens will be released for good behavior when they come of age and an adopter is approved, and their story should serve as a reminder that compassionate people are everywhere.

More Alley Cat Allies: http://www.alleycat.org/

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