It will probably come as no surprise to cat lovers in the Columbia River Gorge that there is a huge population of free-roaming cats.
In an effort to significantly reduce that population, PetSmart Charities recently awarded Catlink of The Dalles, a division of Rowena Wildlife Clinic, a $35,000 grant to fund spay/neuter clinics around the Gorge over the next two years.
Catlink is an all-volunteer organization with a mission to spay and neuter as many cats as possible, as quickly as possible for the least amount of cost, while giving wild cats the best quality life possible and putting no animal at risk.
The goal of the grant program is to achieve zero-population growth of free-roaming cats through education, a humane trap-neuter-release program, and accessible sterilizations in isolated rural areas.
Grant funds will be used for veterinary supplies, traps and carriers. All labor for the program, including that of the veterinarians, will be volunteer.
Approximately 1,800 cats will be spayed or neutered over the length of the grant period, which begins immediately. In the first 12 months, Catlink will concentrate on free-roaming cats in the Washington communities of Dallesport, Goldendale, Klickitat, Lyle and Wishram.
The second year will focus on Mosier and Dufur in Oregon, as well as Bingen, BZ Corners, Husum and White Salmon in Washington.
Last year Catlink spayed or neutered more than 1,500 free-roaming cats. The new program will also educate local people on the benefits of spaying and neutering free-roaming cats, as well as provide training and equipment to residents to trap cats.
Susan R. Kerr, a veterinarian on the Rowena Wildlife Clinic board of directors and the WSU-Klickitat County Extension director says, "This grant will improve public health because fewer stray cats mean less excrement in yards, gardens and water; address public safety as more cats will be vaccinated for rabies; and -- because many low-income people care for stray cats -- it will address poverty by reducing the number of stray cats people have to feed."
Kerr is one of five local veterinarians who have agreed to take part in the program.
Volunteers will be needed in every community. Persons interested can email Catlink at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Marcia Buser at 509-365-2798.