August 3,  2010

Ocracats hosts N.C. State vets at clinic to spay and neuter 97 feral cats


(Editor’s note:  Ruth Fordon and Gael Hawkins are board members of Ocracats, the group that sponsored the July clinic on Ocracoke.)

Monday, July 19, was a day the members of Ocracats had been preparing for several months. Still, we are amazed at the number of details it takes to plan and host a clinic of this size on Ocracoke.

This clinic to spay and neuter feral cats had been planned since last fall by Hyde County Animal Control Officer J. M. Eakes and Dr. Kelli Ferris of the North Carolina State University School of Veterinary Medicine.  

The first date was cancelled because of scheduling issues. However, the 56-foot long mobile medical unit from the School of Veterinary Medicine finally arrived on that Monday afternoon and was parked in the grassy area next to the Ocracoke Fire House after the long ride from Raleigh.

Dr. Kelli Ferris, clinical professor of community practice, her two vet technicians and two volunteers worked well into the late afternoon heat to ready the mobile unit for the surgeries scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, July 20 continue through Friday, July 23.

The North Carolina Ferry Division donated the ferry fee, both ways, for the huge rig and the Fire Hall offered not only a parking spot but also use of power, water, and staging areas that included air conditioning, not only for recovering cats but also for very hot volunteers.

Ocracats was in the process of regrouping over the winter, which coincided with the plans being developed by Eakes and Ferris.  The group applied for and received a generous grant from the Outer Banks Community Foundation, along with an outpouring of support from the community and from visitors to the island.

These funds provided Ocracats with enough money to not only support this clinic but also to sponsor a one-day clinic by a volunteer veterinarian from Elizabeth City in the late spring that spayed or neutered 30 cats. The number of cats that were trapped for that clinic that could not be accommodated made this recent clinic all the more urgent.

When we first spoke with Eakes about the N.C. State clinic, it appeared that Hyde County had funds in its budget for this event.  However, it turned out that Hyde County never had the funds available. The previous N.C. State clinics on mainland Hyde were funded by donations to the School of Veterinary Medicine.

In addition, Ocracats has learned that the county has ended its contract with Eakes because of  budget issues and will no longer have an animal control officer in the county. County residents are disappointed and angry, since Eakes has provided this much needed service over the last several years.

Fortunately, Ocracats, Inc., a local non-profit organization started in the early ‘90s, was  able to campaign for donations, lodging, food, and volunteers to make the July clinic work.

In four days, 97 cats received surgery and were either released back into their colonies or were taken to foster care volunteers who will work to tame them and, hopefully, find them adoptive homes. Amazingly, 96 of the cats treated were very healthy.

None of this successful clinic event would have ever been possible without the tremendous support of the N.C. State School of Veterinary Medicine doctors and their able assistants and volunteers -- Drs. Kelli Ferris and Korinn Sader, vet techs Ma
ry Clarke and Judy Wagaman, and volunteers Frances Crockes and Dana Clarke (enlisted by their moms, Kelli, and Mary).

Ocracats also thanks J.M. Eakes who worked with Ocracoke residents to trap cats for four days and managed to smile through it all.

To the Ocracoke community, whose members shared their energy, hospitality, and resources to make this clinic possible, “thank you” doesn’t seem like enough.  

Tracy Smith, owner of the Mary Francis Cottage on Creek Road, donated her cottage during prime rental season for housing for the N.C. State crew, who were overwhelmed by the accommodations.  Lunches and snacks were provided by Jennifer Rich (leftovers were wonderful!), Jason’s, Pony Island, Thai Moon, Sweet Tooth, and The Coffee Shop.  Volunteers who braved the heat and the sometimes very unhappy cats were Katie O’Neal, Carson O’Neal, Caroline Temple, Brandon O’Neal, Carmie Prete, Mickie Baker, Beverly Meeker, Tom Payne, Felicity Gage, Eny Mutro, Ken Debarth, Keryl Jensen, Barbara Hardy, Merle Davis, Kay Hornung, June Razwilavichi, and Rita Thiel.

Dick Jacobi and the Fire House crew were onboard from the beginning. Without their support, the clinic location would have not been possible. But on Thursday, Dick and his pals really proved that they could rally for any emergency.  The N.C. State mobile unit generator died.  Ernie and Darlene Styron Dozier volunteered a portable generator that might work. Dick and Ernie and John Ferrara, assisted by Jake Johnson and Andy Todd, somehow patched together a workable machine that powered the mobile clinic for the next day and a half.

An unexpected result of the clinic was the trapping of more than 15 kittens about 12 weeks old, just meeting the requirements for the clinic. They were not released, but instead they have been fostered in groups of five by Rita Thiel, Gael Hawkins, and Barbara Jemison.

Ocracats is especially grateful to Barbara Jemison for turning her bathroom into a nursery and taming these semi-wild kittens. Six of them have been tamed and placed in good homes.

Some of the kittens are still available for adoption.  Click here to see some photos and a poster with more information.

There were many anonymous donors who put money in the Ocracats jar, adopted kittens, or simply expressed their support of the neuter/spay efforts that Ocracats is trying to accomplish.

Again, thank you to everyone.

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