The Hudson County Friends of Ferals (HCFF) and Tuesday & Lisa Cat Rescue (TLC) are out to save animals four paws at a time. And in some cases, like last month’s successful Paw Fest at Ellsworth Park in Union City, a couple thousand paws at once.
The organizations’ goals are separate, but congruent; to help homeless cats. It’s not always easy in Hudson County, the members say.
The area has two very different populations: feral and stray cats.
Stray cats are those that have been lost or abandoned. Ferals are cats born in the wild, although they are domestic breeds (they may be the offspring of strays). Ferals are often not friendly to humans, although strays may be. With ferals, there is the added problem that many of them have not been neutered or spayed, leading to continued growth within that population.
“Feral cats are unadoptable because they are too wild. They’re unsociable,” said Mercedes Garcia, a spokeswoman for both groups. “We can only TNR them (trap, neuter, and return).”
“My wife, Mercy, and I have been doing rescue for about 17 years now,” said Miguel Fernandez, Garcia’s husband. “So we are now teaching others how to do the same. By doing TNR we feel that by educating residents from Union City and surrounding towns we will be able to make a difference. Because spreading the word us the only way we can help them.”
“We want to make sure that the person will love and care for this cat.” – Mercedes Garcia
HCFF was founded this summer to support the efforts of TLC Rescue in regard to feral cats.
“Our [new] organization, Hudson County of Ferals, helps the communities TNR, and tries to educate the public about the desperate need to neuter and spay all pets in order to reduce the amount of homeless animals,” Garcia said.
The groups serve much of Hudson County, including the municipalities of North Bergen, Secaucus, Union City, Weehawken, West New York, and Jersey City.
They combined their resources for the Oct. 19 Paw Fest in Union City, the municipality’s first ever event of its kind. TLC Rescue provided the funding and HCFF provided the volunteers.
“It was a huge success, with 500 free rabies shots administered by our local vet, Carlos Triana of Summit Animal Clinic, and 50 free microchips from People for Animals,” Garcia said.
The Paw Fest also featured dogs and cats available for adoptions. But it wasn’t all seriousness either. The day included live music, a dog kissing contest, a pet costume competition, an agility demonstration, pet services and food vendors, a belly dancer, face painting, giveaways, and prizes.
Got a $20K grant
TLC is taking on an ambitious project after receiving a PetSmart Charities grant for $20,000. The rescue group is set to TNR 300 cats in one neighborhood of Union City over the next year, according to Fernandez.
“The area is roughly from The Doric development to Kennedy Boulevard and as far north at Eighth Street,” he said. “Our volunteers will be assisting in trapping cats and taking care of them prior to and after surgeries. Our goal is to reduce the homeless cat population as well as reduce nuisance problems.”
“We do believe that the homeless cat population can be controlled through a combination of TNR, the cooperation of town governments, the education of feeders and a solid group effort,” Garcia said. “I think that the main wishes of any organization like ours are funding and finding space for TNR.”
“We're currently exploring our options for space, and this is very challenging in a dense urban environment,” she said. “We've discussed possibilities with [Union City] Mayor Brian Stack and are open to any community members who have ideas or space they would like to donate.”
How to adopt
The second major objective of the sister organizations is finding good homes for the strays they find.
“With the help of TLC we fully vet any of the friendly cats we encounter and put them up for adoption,” Garcia said. “If someone wants to adopt any of our friendly, adoptable cats, then we arrange for a meet and greet.
“If they like the cat they fill out an application, which we then process to make sure we have a match,” she said. “We want to make sure that the person will love and care for this cat. Once the person is approved, we then deliver the cat to the house.”
HCFF is growing by leaps and bounds. The association now counts about 150 members in its ranks, with about a dozen attending its meetings at 7 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month at the William V. Musto Center in Union City.
“At our meetings we have discussed working with the city to get ID cards for cat feeders,” Garcia said. “This model is very successful in Bergen County. We've also discussed the possibility of having a pet food bank and having other community events.”
The rescue group can be reached by visiting https://www.facebook.com/TLCatResue. Adoptable animals can be found at TLCrescue.petfinder.org or http://www.animalleague.org.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.