Forty Thousand Ferals Fixed

ALAMEDA, CA (INB) -- A whopping forty thousand feral cats have been altered in the past thirteen months by veterinarians participating in the California Veterinary Medical Association's Feral Cat Altering Program (FCAP). The FCAP program, which started in August of 1999, aimed to spay/neuter 20,000 feral cats throughout the state of California in the Project's first year and alter 60,000 cats over a three-year period. But with 40,000 surgeries already completed, the Program is ten months ahead of schedule. Now it's estimated that as many as 120,000 total surgeries could be performed over the three year life of the project.

The California Veterinary Medical Association's community based approach of recruiting hundreds of its members to spay and neuter feral cats offers a unique new model for humanely controlling feral cat populations.

To date, CVMA has enrolled 912 veterinarians from every region of California. FCAP doctors agree to spay/neuter feral cats brought to them by community feral cat caregivers: the surgery is free for the caregivers, the doctors are reimbursed an average of $50 per surgery by CVMA. After the cats are spayed or neutered, they're returned to the caregiver who releases the cat back to his former habitat.

The program has been a real boon to caregivers and to the doctors as well. ''I've been practicing veterinary medicine for 24 years, and FCAP is one of the best programs we've ever been involved with,'' says Dr. Rafael Villicana of Gateway Animal Hospital in Glendale. ''There are so many abandoned cats. FCAP has gotten everyone in the community mobilized to help them.'' Dr. Villicana performed 521 feral cat surgeries above his baseline of 25 in the first year of the program.

''When we first met with CVMA to discuss this project, we were all cautiously optimistic,'' says Maddie's Fund Veterinary Consultant Dr. Laurie Peek. ''We thought the idea was sound, but nothing like this on such a large scale had ever been tried. Now, of course, we're ecstatic. This program has been enthusiastically embraced not only by the doctors, who've done a fantastic job, but also by the public, the feral cat caregivers and the humane community. Community involvement has been the secret to the FCAP's success.''

The FCAP program is underwritten by a grant from Maddie's Fund. The initial $3.2 million dollar package was based on a target of 60,000 surgeries. ''Now it's back to the drawing board,'' says Peek. ''With so many cats getting altered, our dollars will have to increase. But this is one high price for success we're happy to pay.'' At 120,000 surgeries, the cost to Maddie's Fund could be more than six million dollars.

In the first year of the FCAP program, the most above baseline feral cat spay/neuter surgeries were performed by:

*Dr. James Haubert, Valley Animal Hospital, Van Nuys - 1,336

*Dr. Brian Tan, St. Louis Veterinary Clinic, Oakland - 1,019

*Dr. James Sharp, Pet Hospital, North Hollywood - 982

*Dr. James Murphy, Sebastopol - 864