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Local news — St. Thomas
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Spay and Neuter Program a Boon to Island


Veterinarians Frank Alfano, left, and Bethany Bradford at spay/neuter clinic (photo courtesy of Monica Gephart).

St. Thomas will have about 4,500 fewer feral cats roaming the island this year searching for food and shelter after last weekend's spay and neuter clinic hosted by the Lucky Paws Foundation and the Humane Society of St. Thomas.

The statistics are based on national humane society figures of cats bearing three litters per year yielding between four and six kittens. But whatever the exact figure, it's a lot of kitties looking for food and attention they would likely be unable to find.

Luck Paws founder and director Dellia Holodenschi was enormously pleased with the turnout where 156 animals, including 20 dogs, were treated Saturday through Monday. "We neutered all the male cats in the shelter."

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Veterinarians Mohamed Emara, Lilan Hauser and Frank Alfano were assisted by veterinarian technicians Amanda Amirault, Kelly Buckley and Evan Franklin using a fully equipped surgical spay/neuter vehicle donated by the Animal Rescue League of Boston, Holodenschi said.

"They were all amazing," she said. "They worked so hard donating their time. And we had lots of local volunteers helping as well. It was a community effort."

Local veterinary technician Kathy Vennitti, Department of Agriculture Dr. Bethany Bradford and St. John Dr. Laura Palmenteri also assisted. The cost is a $25 donation.

Holodenschi said, "I think this is the most we've ever treated at one time. Since 2010, when the program was initiated, we have treated at least 1,000 animals. We cannot say they were all spayed because some were sick, some had cancer or ulcers in their mouths and had to be euthanized."

"Lots of local people came and we were able to educate them,” she said. “That's so important. People will tell me their cats simply multiply and we explain that it doesn't have to be that way. We don't want to overbreed. People must realize that we are the ones responsible for making this a 'no kill' shelter. That is our goal."

Holodenschi is passionate about her mission, to which she dedicates endless hours. "Prevention is kinder than destruction " is her motto.

She started a Cat Café program 2007 that traps the feral cats, gets them spayed or neutered with the assistance of the Humane Society, and returns them to their former colony where they receive food and water from a designated caretaker, so the cats no longer search for food in areas where they are a nuisance. The size of these colonies stabilizes and declines over time, she said.

Holodenschi said another spay/neuter program is tentatively in the works for March. "We have a huge demand, people waiting from last weekend.” She said she will be announcing fundraising events soon.

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