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Today's word on journalism

March 17, 2009

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1863-2009

"Can Seattle's oldest newspaper be successfully transformed into a child of the information age? The Northwest is a land of big dreams. With the demise of the Soviet Union, one quipster noted that Puget Sound is now home to three empires still bent on global dominion: Microsoft, and Starbuck's. If the stars align properly and with a quality product, Seattle will show the way to a new model for journalism of the written word."

--Joel Connelly, columnist, in today's final print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Editorial Comment: And when the newspapers die. . . .

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Feedback and suggestions --printable and otherwise --always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Successful Aggie feral cat program seeks volunteers, donations

By Kelly Greenwood

February 20, 2009 | LOGAN -- Lyle was once homeless. He was old, arthritic, and he wandered Utah State University housing areas in search of food. That is, until he encountered a feeding station provided by a USU organization.

The orange-and-white tabby cat was one of the first feral cats cared for by USU's Aggie Cat Services (ACS), an on-campus, non-profit organization that works to control the feral cat population on USU's campus.

According to Whitney Milligan, one of the founders of ACS and director of USU Residential Life, ACS originated about four years ago when pre-veterinary students began spay-and-neuter training with a feral cat colony that lived around the Junction dining hall on campus. Eventually, a staff assistant invited No More Homeless Pets and presented the Trap-Neuter-Return program to USU, and the shift toward Aggie Cat Services began, Milligan said.

Through the Trap-Neuter-Return-Maintain program, ACS has implemented a "method of managing and controlling the feral cat population on campus," Milligan said. As the first step of the program, ACS sets up feeding stations at predetermined locations around the USU campus and establishes a feeding pattern with the cats over several weeks, Milligan said. ACS then removes the food and sets up live traps at the stations, which are monitored by trained volunteers, according to the ACS Web site.

When the cats are trapped, they are taken to Cache Meadow Veterinary Clinic where they are vaccinated for rabies and spayed or neutered. Their ears are tipped to indicate they have been treated, and they are released back to their original location, Milligan said. The colonies are then monitored for any changes in health or behavior, the ACS Web site states.

Through the TNRM program, stronger colonies develop, which prevents more cats from coming in, since colonies are very territorial, Milligan said. Also, the cats no longer reproduce, which reduces the feral cat population and over time, the cats naturally die off, she said. The program is a much more efficient than the catching-and-killing method, which is less practical and more expensive, she said. The ACS Web site states it is inhumane to catch and kill feral cats because humans are responsible for their neglect.

"We have a responsibility for them," Milligan said.

ACS currently manages four feeding stations, and according to Milligan, is "looking at the possibility of two more." The past year was the first time ACS saw response from volunteers and now has approximately 30 of them-- 12 of which are actively participating, she said.

According to Alyssa Walker, member of the ACS volunteer coordinator council, the organization needs the most help at the feeding stations. She said ACS has had a harder time finding volunteers for the feeding stations that are farther away on campus. Milligan said that most people are interested in trapping the cats, while they have only a few very committed people who monitor the feeding stations.

In addition to volunteer help, monetary donations are also welcome, as well as food donations, Walker said. She mentioned some local animal control officers who regularly donate damaged bags of cat food to the organization and said that any donations are welcome.

"We need donations all the time," said Milligan. "We are always looking for people who have access to resources."

Milligan said the organization is run entirely on donations and doesn't receive state funding. She has spoken with individuals to convert the trap-and-kill funds to ACS, but in the meantime, ACS is "working on fund-raising all the time," she said.

ACS doesn't release every cat they treat, however. Though most cats are too feral to be adopted, the ACS Web site states, some cats are friendly and healthy enough to be put up for adoption.

Lyle, the aforementioned tabby, was put up for adoption, but when he was diagnosed with arthritis and feline AIDS, Milligan decided to take him in. Though she eventually had to put him to sleep, the "very affectionate" cat had a warm, comfortable place to spend his last days, she said. Milligan also adopted a 3-week-old kitten she found in Aggie Village who was diagnosed with cerebral hyperplasia, a neurological disorder associated with balance control. The cat is healthy now and his shaking has stopped, she said.

But even though some feral cats are adoptable, people should not try to pet them or trap them on their own. If people see feral cats on campus, they should call ACS, Walker said.

"People need to realize that feral cats aren't pet cats," Walker said.

Even if they are as sweet as Lyle.


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