Background and Inspiration
Although precise statistics are difficult to determine, animal advocacy organizations estimate that approximately 4-5 millions animals are put to death in shelters across the United States each year. Because of their more prolific breeding cycle and other factors, the overwhelming majority of these animals are cats. Feral cats, homeless and largely unadoptable, are routinely euthanized, as are newborn kittens and pregnant cats that demand more care than many overcrowded, underfunded shelters can provide.
In the 1990’s the concept of feral colony management began to spread, along with the practice of trapping, neutering or spaying and releasing (known as TNR) feral cats back into the colony. Long before that method even had a name, one woman, Helen Sanders, saw this problem of homeless, stray cats, and felt they deserved care, not death. Over the years she even encountered physical threats from people who wanted these stray cats shot, not fed, but she persevered.
Born in 1935, Helen became a fixture in the small southern California beach town in which she lived out her life, pedaling her three-wheeled cycle, big basket in the back filled with bags of cat food. She used specially designed traps to capture cats and have them spayed or neutered and vaccinated, then would release them back into the colony.
She became involved with the local shelter and in addition to her work with feral cat colonies, became known as the ‘go-to’ person for all things ‘cat’, spending hours counseling people in person or on the phone about problem behavior or illnesses. Even as she battled cancer, Helen continued her life’s work up until a couple weeks before her death, riding her familiar trike through alleys, hauling bags of cat food past the beach and over rocks to her waiting “Jetty Cats”.
Building on the Legacy
In the past year, in the wake of economic hardship and with foreclosures rising, shelters across the country have been overwhelmed with abandoned animals. Helen’s friends and supporters of her work resolved to help address this problem by creating an organization to continue her legacy of caring for cats and educating people by setting the following goals:
Promote spay/neuter through advertising and education
Raise money to sponsor spay/neuter surgery, providing low-cost options, vouchers
Form alliances with shelters to raise money for and provide expanded facilities for abandoned, homeless cats;
Supply food, medical care and live traps to individuals and groups for feral cat colony management (TNR)
Provide foster homes for abandoned/orphaned kittens,
Develop a ‘Barn Cat’ program to shelter otherwise unadoptable cats on Colorado farms and ranches.
It is hoped that through the Helen Sanders Cat Protection and Welfare Society (HS CatPAWS) the staggering problem of pet overpopulation with its resultant tragic consequences can be eased and helpless cats whose only crime is to be unwanted can escape certain death and get another chance.