The abandoned cat population is on the rise in Tiverton, Little Compton and Portsmouth, says one volunteer animal group that would like to see a regional animal shelter created.
PawsWatch TLCP Leader Michele Barcelou said the group, of about six active members, traps, houses and even sends cats and sometimes dogs to the Rhode Island Community Spay/Neuter Clinic in Warwick for low cost spaying and neutering. She notes there is also a kitten problem, and they help facilitate the adoption arrangements.
Barcelou said because the community has no shelter, the kittens have to be taken elsewhere to be shown for adoptions.
The Potter League in Middletown does take abandoned animals from different towns and contracts transportation to the low-cost spay and neuter clinic in Warwick. That's helpful for Portsmouth, but the outreach does not extend too far over the bridge into Tiverton and Little Compton, Barcelou said.
PawsWatch works closely with animal volunteer group Placing Paws as well.
"It's really here," Barcelou said of the growing population in the Tiverton area. "We need a place for people to get their animals spayed and neutered."
The animal situation in Tiverton and Little Compton
Barcelou and PawsWatch member Barbara Pelletier said they pay Sakonnet Veterinary Hospitalfor four cages. Tiverton and Little Compton recently renewed their contracts with the hospital, which provides them with a small number of cages. Little Compton Town Council President Robert Mushen said they have provided some modest financial support to Placing Paws. Under state law, all towns must put 50 percent of their municipal cat registrations toward a low-cost spay/neuter program.
Barcelou and Pelletier say the veterinary hospital provides some necessary services, but it is a pound, not an animal shelter.
"We need the community itself for people to start stepping up to solve this problem, or it's never going to go away," Barcelou said.
She noted that, aside from the transportation to Warwick, the clinic there charges $60 to $70 for cats and $150 to $250 for dogs depending on weight.
"We've tossed around the idea of partnering with someone," Barcelou said. She said they attempted to get funding for the East Bay from the Rhode Island Foundation, but it went to the Warwick clinic instead.
Reports from Tiverton Animal Control
Tiverton Animal Control Officer Paul Bell said he's seeing the abandoned cat issue increase.
"We get calls that cats have been hanging out near a home," he said. "But it's hard to go out and proactively capture cats. I consider cats probably as abundant as squirrels. They can fend for themselves. If someone has it on their property, we'll take it in."
Bell said Tiverton rents out six cages to be used at any time, and brings animals to the pound on a case by case basis, especially if one can be adopted. He also occasionally deals with individuals who report feral cats residing on private property.
"That's because they're feeding them," he said. "They've maintained them."
Bell said if they responded to every cat call, they could fill a cage at the pound every day. Owners don't let their cats roam as much as dogs, he added, and they do not tag cats when captured.
Bell added that the town's rabies clinic last month at the Department of Public Works was "poorly attended" compared to previous years. They issued only 69 vaccines and 62 dog licenses.
Continued efforts in the short term
Barcelou said they will continue their efforts, but hope to keep the idea of a local shelter moving forward, especially if the animal population keeps rising with no convenient place for spaying and neutering.
"To get several towns working together to sustain one shelter, you have to get all the shelters talking together," she said.
(Clarifications have been made to the original post.)