Thursday, April 15, 2010

Best Friends: Viva Las Vegas!

April 12, 2010, 7:51AM MT
By Sandy Miller, Best Friends staff writer

Best Friends Operation Casino Cats program proves to be a success in maintaining hotel-casino property feline population

It’s a win-win for both community cats and the Las Vegas hotel-casino property that they call home.

Seven months after Operation Casino Cats was first launched, the Best Friends trap/neuter/return (TNR) program at the hotel-casino is proving to be a huge success.

Best Friends staffers and volunteers have trapped, neutered and spayed, and then returned more than 85 cats to the property, says Shelly Kotter, campaign specialist for Focus on Felines, one of four Best Friends campaigns aimed at reaching the goal of No More Homeless Pets.

“We’re pretty confident we have 99 percent of them,” Kotter says.

Kotter doesn’t want to reveal the name of the hotel-casino because people might abandon their cats there.

There were a few bumps along the way, but the hotel-casino’s management worked with Best Friends to iron out the few problems that arose. For instance, pigeons were frequenting the cats’ feeding stations, so Best Friends covered the feeding stations with large bins with doors cut into them which were covered with a light-weight plastic. The cats could still access the food, but the pigeons had to find other places to dine.

“One of the things that makes me really happy is that we were able to work with hotel management on any issues,” Kotter says. “Management has been really great about coming to us with problems and working with us to solve them.”

Like many other businesses, the hotel-casino has discovered that TNR programs are the best way — and indeed the most humane way — to deal with feral and stray cats, or community cats as we like to call them. With TNR, the cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinary clinic — in Las Vegas it’s the Tropicana Animal Hospital — where they’re spayed or neutered and vaccinated. While under the anesthesia, a small tip of one of their ears is taken off to identify that they’re part of a managed cat colony. Then they’re returned to the area from which they came where caregivers continue to feed and watch over them.

“Best Friends volunteers are instrumental in helping me trap and maintain the colonies as well as reporting to me any issues or needs,” says Tami Simon, Best Friends’ campaign coordinator in Las Vegas. “Hotel employees also keep me informed of the goings-on — if they see any pregnant cats, kittens or newcomers.”

Simon called the program a big success.

“Considering how many kittens we have prevented from being born, it has been wildly successful,” says Simon. “The colonies are all healthy, but not reproducing. The management and employees have been extremely supportive.”

So successful is the program that Best Friends plans to present it to other hotel-casinos and large businesses in Las Vegas.

“The success of this program will help other businesses see that it solves multiple cat issues and is truly the most humane way of dealing with community cats,” Kotter says.

Focus on Felines

If we’re ever going to reach a day of No More Homeless Pets, we must keep cats from entering shelters in the first place. Seventy-two percent of cats who end up in shelters are killed, and only 10 percent to 20 percent of pet cats are adopted from shelters. TNR programs keep cats out of shelters and keep them from producing more cats. TNR programs are also cheaper to implement than trap and kill programs.

To find out how much your community could save by replacing trap and kill with TNR, check out Best Friends’ TNR Cost Savings Calculator.
Read more about TNR in Best Friends’ Focus on Felines campaign.
Read more about the launch of the Operation Casino Cats program and watch the video chronicling the successful process.

Photos by Molly Wald and hotel-casino employee

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