The Goshen News Intranet

2022-06-27 22:24:31 By : Mr. Yong Xin

A few passing clouds. Low 49F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph..

A few passing clouds. Low 49F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.

A cat descends porch steps at Royal Oaks Mobile Home Park in Chesterfield.

A cat hangs out near an air conditioning unit at Royal Oaks Mobile Home Park in Chesterfield.

A cat descends porch steps at Royal Oaks Mobile Home Park in Chesterfield.

A cat hangs out near an air conditioning unit at Royal Oaks Mobile Home Park in Chesterfield.

CHESTERFIELD — In Royal Oaks Mobile Home Park, feral cats run across streets, lounge on porches and take refuge under people’s homes. They carry fleas and worms, have matted fur and suffer from severe eye infections.

According to Susan Blake, executive director of Ambassadors for God’s Creatures, feral cat colonies in the park are not a new problem. Ambassadors is a nonprofit focused on reducing pet overpopulation in Madison and Delaware counties, according to its website.

The non-profit combats the feral cat problem through a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program. Thirty-five cats living on the Royal Oaks property have been processed. The costs have totaled about $1,470, not including other veterinary expenses or the rescue of seven litters of kittens, according to a letter Blake sent to River Valley Communities, which owns Royal Oaks.

The manager of Royal Oaks and River Valley Communities corporate office declined to comment for this article, and Blake said she has yet to receive a response from the corporate office about the situation.

Ambassadors for God’s Creatures runs on donations and grant money. Blake said a significant amount of its funds for this year have been exhausted on Royal Oaks alone. She has asked the mobile home park to compensate her organization for the work they have done on the property because Ambassadors for God’s Creatures cannot sustain the current costs. She believes it's the park’s responsibility to handle the feral cats.

“If you look at the volume that we've done, 35 cats is a lot,” Blake said. “We've got good momentum. And I feel like if they don't step up and help, that we're going to be right back where we were in another year, to it being overwhelmed. I think we actually have a chance at tackling this issue with Royal Oaks.”

Many of the kittens rescued from Royal Oaks, Blake said, have tested positive for feline panleukopenia virus, which is highly contagious and deadly to kittens. Eleven of the rescue cats, including an entire litter of kittens, died in the span of two weeks from the virus.

The disease can be passed along from cat to kitten, so the best way to combat the virus is through vaccination, spaying and neutering, according to Blake.

Kerri Hintz is a resident of Royal Oaks and became an employee of Ambassadors for God’s Creatures about a month ago after she began trapping cats in the park for TNR. Hintz said residents are frightened of the cats because of their disturbing health conditions. One cat Hintz trapped had a large hole in its neck. Hintz has also seen residents shoving whatever they can in the skirting of their trailers to prevent cats from pulling it apart to get underneath.

Many of the homes have large holes in the siding where cats have ripped into it, according to Hintz.

“The cat situation is ridiculous. I've talked to a couple different residents and a couple of them are leaving because of the cat situation,” Hintz said. “The cats will go up underneath the trailers and have babies and they can hear them yelling and screaming, and then the pee is just getting to be ridiculous.”

State law stipulates that stray animals are allowed to live in mobile home parks as long as the parks meet certain requirements.

“Domestic animals and house pets may not be permitted to run at large or commit a nuisance within the limits of a mobile home community,” but this does not apply to “feral cats that are caught and released as part of a spay and neuter program designed to reduce the number of feral cats in the area,” Megan Wade-Taxter of the Indiana Department of Health said via email.

The Indiana Code defines feral as “not fed or sheltered by humans,” but Wade-Taxter said feral cats can be safely contained or captured, taken to receive medical treatment or relocated to a more appropriate location.

“The Indiana Department of Health is appreciative of trap, neuter and return organizations, and we encourage mobile home communities to work with these organizations,” Wade-Taxter said.

Blake believes the law should not prohibit residents from feeding stray cats. She wants to collaborate with the Indianapolis office of the Humane Society of the United States to advocate for change because of the abundance of mobile home parks in Indiana.

As of 2019, there were 1,112 mobile home parks in the state, according to the department of health.

Blake does not want to see residents punished because they are doing what they think is right.

“There's always going to be that animal lover who's feeding at the midnight hour, who's putting the food on the porch in the dark because they know they're not supposed to; they could get fined or evicted,” Blake said. “But they're going to do it because they care about the cats.”

Blake would also like to develop ordinances in Chesterfield that would allow the town to assist with TNR programs in mobile home parks. Currently, she believes the cat colony in Royal Oaks could cost Ambassadors for God’s Creatures from $5,000 to $10,000.

“That's the problem, is that a lot of these mobile home parks and just people in general, they turn to the nonprofits and say, 'Come fix this problem.' What about the town)?” Blake said.

Ultimately, Hintz wants Royal Oaks to help Ambassadors for God’s Creatures take care of the cats on the property, whether by helping with cat trapping or making residents more aware of the situation.

“I would like for them to pay for all the cats and all the surgeries and everything that we've done to help in that park,” Hintz noted.

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