Sue Jones to be featured in 'Cat Nip Nation' documentary
No one can say exactly how many there are in Augusta. They live in the shadows and aren’t used to interaction with humans.
Feral cats - a label that covers stray and homeless - are a problem and city leaders, the Department of Safety, and downtown business owners, have spent considerable time trying to find solutions.
One business owner, Sue Jones, has found herself in the middle of the controversy surrounding the feral cat issue. She, along with her husband Ray, have been fined and taken to court for caring for the cats. The city was successful in forbidding the couple to provide food to the cats, but not water. The Jones have appealed the case and will be in District Court in early February 2018.
In the meantime, award-winning journalist, filmmaker Tina Traster, was in Augusta visiting the Jones recently for the filming of “Catnip Nation”, an hour-long documentary, exploring the contrast between beloved pet cats and the equal number who live on the streets. The documentary should air early next year.
The film’s unsung heroes are the people who care for the homeless felines and those who are managing organized cat colonies using Trap, Neuter, and Return (TNR) programs to reduce populations.
“We are just providing water now. People were taking care of those cats for years and there was no issue,” Jones continued, “This is not about us, but what has happened to us is indicative of other communities, as well.”
Jones explains that withholding food and water is not the answer and the cats don’t just go away. The cats will continue to reproduce and will be unhealthy.
She supports that an established, stable, sterilized, and vaccinated colony of feral cats will deter other stray and feral cats from moving into the area.
Statistical data suggests phasing out colonies via neutering is a more humane solution for feral cats than taking them to shelters, which guarantees a death sentence for the cats.
“We’ve heard that the City isn’t on board with returning the cats to town following spay/neutering and vaccinations, and that there is no money in the budget for such a program,” Jones added, “The City has already spent more than $3,000 in legal fees and for special prosecutors, which would have paid to have 65 cats in the TNR program. Before this is all taken care of, all the feral cats in town could have been fixed and vaccinated.”
She explained that several area communities have received grants for funding the program and other communities are making changes to their methods in dealing with feral cats.
TNR efforts in the U.S. have also encountered opposition. Traditional shelters disagreed with TNR, including the Humane Society of the United States, which later reversed its position. The majority of traditional shelters continue to euthanize feral cats. TNR has gained increasing support over the years.
Jones has no plans to stop pushing for the TNR program in Augusta and hopes residents will persuade their city officials to take another look at the issue.
“We’ve received cards, letters, emails, and Facebook posts from hundreds of people across the country, and world. People are so passionate about this,” Jones added, “I would like to see the City adopt the TNR program. Compassion should not be a chargeable offense in Augusta.”
It should be noted that prior to Jones leaving the city council in 2015, she told council members that a feral cat plan would come back to the governing body. A plan was never presented to the Council.
For more information on “Catnip Nation” go to: www.catnipnation.com. For more information on the TNR program, go to www. alleycat.org or www.neighborhoodcats.org.
Jones asked for clarification concerning the information on providing water to the cats. They are not allowed to provide water at this time. She said, "This is exactly what lead to our charges and conviction – over water. We were providing just water based on the agreement I had with the judge and prosecutor in 2015. We are no longer doing so based on the conviction this year. The statement that we still are could lead to more difficulty from the City and the Special Prosecutor."
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