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Spring is 'litter season' for animal welfare agents

May 1, 2013 - Jenny Rukenbrod
As a lifelong resident of Ohio, springtime signals a colorful array of images. Bright yellow bursts from the early forsythia bushes and brave daffodils, followed by the vivid red of the proud tulips that have lived through another winter. Grasses grow a deeper shade of green and finally the intoxicating smell of lilacs and verbena fully awaken the senses. Intertwined in this eruption of beauty, in most towns, back roads and byways, a quiet problem has been growing during the long dark winter months. It is called litter. For some, this litter is trashy dots of fast food bags, sprays of empty beverage cans and containers and the colorful kitelike plastic bags that hang from the trees and float down the waterways. But in a community, where âpeople and pets are connected,ã litter has yet another meaning. Soon, along with the accumulation of the lifeless litter that can be bagged and disposed of, thousands of whiskered âlittersã will appear. These litters live and breathe and breed. They cause heartache, frustration and resentment all created by the unwillingness or inability to spay and neuter the cats behind the whiskers that live in our neighborhoods. Along with the fallen petals of spring and under the leafy trees and shrubs are the polluting remnants of kittens and cats just trying to live another day, by no fault of their own. âKitten seasonã as it is called in the world of animal welfare is another sure sign of spring. Un-spayed cats will begin giving birth through fall. A cat as young as 4 months can become pregnant with two litters per year. At 4-6 kittens per litter, you can do the math, that will quickly add up to hundreds of cats born from one un-spayed mother. One cute little litter in your yard or neighborhood can lead to anguish and anger because your options will be very limited for removing them. Cat overpopulation is one of the biggest challenges in animal welfare. Since cats are not a threat to livestock, that is unless you are a bird enthusiast, our county government does not employ a âcat wardenã or support a âcat poundã. Financially strapped animal shelters and humane societies have waiting lists due to the inability to find homes for the cats already in their care. Thus, you become a caretaker unless you choose to allow them to fend for themselves in nature. With this comes yet another set of problems. I visited a local town recently where I chatted with a friend on a main intersection. Both good citizens and animal lovers, we were troubled as we watched a cat trot down an adjacent sidewalk and into the crosswalk. We held our breath as it successfully cleared its war zone, this time. Along the road where I live, we regularly pick up litter dispensed by what has to be a person devoid of pride or respect. In a community where âpeople and pets are connectedã, what is your âlitter toleranceã? This question is about more than just your own back yard.

Jenny Pike Humane Society of Columbiana Co. ­ 330-332-2600 April 2013


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