SPCA International is about do to something that has never been done in Iraq before. On May 8, a team of SPCA International staff and volunteers are going to launch a Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR) project at the U.S. Consulate in Erbil.
A group of consulate employees voiced their concerned that the method for dealing with the overabundance of feral and semi-tame cats living at the government compound is not solving the problem. When vector control periodically traps all the cats and releases them on the outskirts of the city it’s not long before a whole new group of cats makes themselves at home. It’s a vicious circle and the animals are the ones suffering.In April, SPCA International got an email from one of the consulate employees asking for our help. That initial email led to this life saving step of providing a humane solution to reducing the cat population on the compound grounds. It has been proven that simply removing feral cats from an area opens the door for new ones to claim the territory as theirs. People at the consulate know this for a fact. Instead, if you trap, spay/neuter the cats, vaccinated them and then release them back to where they came from, the cats will remain in their territory, which discourages new cats from claiming it for themselves. Most important, is that no new litters of kittens will be born. It is also important that a reliable source of food and fresh water be provided to keep the cats healthy and prevent them from wandering away in search of food. A group of consulate employees has agreed to be the cat’s caregivers. The other advantage of TNR is that it helps to cut down on catfights, which is a leading cause of disease being spread from one cat to another. Neutered males especially lose that need to prove their toughness to other Toms. SPCA International volunteer veterinarian Dr. Robert Ballinger will be doing all the surgeries in a room provided at the consulate. While he is spaying and neutering the cats, Kurdish veterinarian Dr. Hemin Ahmed will be learning how it is done. The goal is to train Dr. Ahmed so that he can continue to offer sterilization for cats at his clinic. In Iraq, veterinarian students are not trained to provide care for dogs and cats. There just has not been the need. However, things in Kurdistan are changing and more people are recognizing the benefits of having companion animals. Being able to provide the option to spay or neuter a cat is definitely a sign of progress. In time, we hope to be able to offer a TNR program for dogs too.Iraq has a serious stray dog and cat overpopulation problem. The current methods of shooting and poisoning these animals are extremely cruel. It is our hope that this TNR project in Erbil will spread and increase the use of more humane methods for controlling the stray animal population. This initiative, along with many other campaigns SPCAI previously launched in Iraq, will help eliminate some of the suffering that has gone on too long.