- Associated Press - Sunday, April 19, 2015

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - Jerleen Bryant knows she faces an uphill battle fighting cat overpopulation on the island, but she’s looking to “fix the problem” at its root with a new sterilization effort.

The Maui Humane Society Community Cat Sterilization Campaign is seeking to trap and sterilize hundreds of feral cats once every couple months over the next five years, The Maui News reported Wednesday (https://bit.ly/1J4dvU1). The campaign is in partnership with Animal Balance, a nonprofit dedicated to aiding island communities through large-scale animal sterilization efforts.

“Nothing of this magnitude has ever been done on Maui,” said Bryant, chief executive officer of the Humane Society. “This is pretty groundbreaking for us, and we hope Maui’s success can serve as a template for the other Hawaiian islands.”

The first clinic is scheduled for June, and organizers hope to sterilize 600 cats over five days, with trapping efforts focused in the Kanaha area. The area has an estimated 2,000 unsterilized cats, or the highest community cat population on Maui, according to Bryant, who cited mapping data collected by independent researchers last year.

“If we hold a clinic and we have 20 feral cats, there’s a high likelihood that all the cats are pregnant,” she said. “That’s what prolific breeders they are. The only humane solution is to decrease the number of animals being born. If we can hit it hard, we’ll see change.

“But if we just dabble in it, you’ll never see the results.”

While teams will be trapping feral cats in Kanaha, colony managers and other cat owners may bring their cats in carriers to the mobile animal surgical hospitals for free sterilization. Bryant said she plans to hold trapping and sterilizing clinics in other problem areas on Maui, such as Iao Valley.

“My number one goal is to save animals, and the only way I can do that is to have less coming through the door,” she said.

In addition to the cat sterilization clinics, the Humane Society is providing free spay, neuter and zeuter (chemical castration) surgery for dogs next week. About 200 spots were available as of Tuesday, and organizers hope to sterilize 400 dogs over four days. Those dates are: April 21 and 22 at the Maui Humane Society, April 25 at the Kulamalu parking lot in Pukalani and April 25 at the Lahaina Cannery Mall.

The clinic also includes free vaccinations, county licenses and a microchip. The cost for similar services with private veterinarians ranges from $300 to $800, depending on the size, gender and other factors, Bryant said.

“We’re not charging for it because we don’t want cost to be a deterrent,” she said.

Bryant, who has been with the Humane Society for the past three years, took over as chief executive officer in June to oversee the island’s only open admission animal shelter. She has kick-started her tenure as a “proactive” leader and sought the help of Animal Balance Founder and Director Emma Clifford in relieving Maui’s cat overpopulation.

The five-year campaign is expected to “take a great amount of resources,” but Bryant said she believes her agency’s new partner will help bring needed change to the island.

“Together, we can really make a difference on this island,” she said. “Otherwise, nothing is going to change.”

Other agencies employing overpopulation measures are 9th Life Hawaii, Maui’s largest nonprofit, no-kill cat rescue and sanctuary.

The group, which has for years sent kittens to the Mainland with tourists, is now sending them directly to Ft. Lupton, Colo., through its adoption program, “Meowy from Maui.” The nonprofit sent six kittens in March and three have already been adopted.

Phyllis Tavares, executive director of 9th Life Hawaii, said the program’s goal is to decrease euthanasia and save operation costs in the long run. The nonprofit has roughly 300 cats, and the annual cost to care for one is more than $200.

“We are hopeful that as this program picks up momentum, so more and more cats can be sent to the Mainland,” Tavares said.

The program is in partnership with Every Creature Counts, a no-kill shelter on the outskirts of Denver. The shelter places kittens in about 16 PetSmart stores and a few Petco stores for adoption.

Tavares said her group sends the “friendliest, most outgoing” felines that are able to handle the rigors of air travel and relocation. She said the six kittens sent to the Mainland ranged from a little over a year old to 6 years old.

Tavares said she plans to continue the program indefinitely and expand it to other states where Maui cats may find their “forever” homes.

“We are hoping our supporters will step forward and donate toward this wonderful program,” she said.

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Information from: The Maui News, https://www.mauinews.com

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Information from: The Maui News, https://www.mauinews.com

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