Cats are overtaking Rhode Island animal shelters. The SPCA says thousands of stray and feral cats are running loose, and some say not enough is being done about it.
You see them in your neighborhood, even at your door looking for food. Strays seem to be everywhere, yet there's now law requiring cities and towns to deal with the problem.
"If you call around you will hear the same thing from Woonsocket to Westerly, we're full. We can not take in any more cats," said Dr. E.J. Finocchio, President of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevent of Cruelty to Animals.
On this visit to the RISPCA in Riverside 6 more kittens are dropped off. The shelter is reluctant to take in any more as they are already maxed out. 32 cages full of cats and kittens, some there as long as 5 months.
"I would venture to guess that on a daily basis she [shelter worker] refuses probably seven or eight cats a day, five days a week," said Dr. Finocchio.
The RISPCA says it's not a new problem, but a growing one. Cat populations are on the rise in cities and towns across Rhode Island. The problem they say is the law, or lack there of, on the books for animal control in the state.
"The cooperation from them in dealing with these cat issues in their communities is deplorable. But, I also understand that they are not obligated by law to do anything about it," said Dr. Finocchio.
"I will never let an animal that is emaciated or sick or injured ever suffer. Absolutely not. But if there's a healthy cat walking around hanging out it could be someone's cat," said Officer Erin Medeiros of Johnston Animal Control.
Officer Medeiros says the town of Johnston enforces state laws requiring pet owners to spay or neuter their cats. She's personally issued several tickets to people who failed to do so.
Still, working to curb the feral cat population can be costly. Many cities and towns rely on help from non-profit groups like Paws Watch that spay, trap, neuter and release feral cats. Otherwise, the burden falls to tax payers.
"It costs tax payers money, you know, to do these things. It costs tax payers money for anti-biotic's, and for treatment of every animal. So you have to look at every situation differently," said Officer Medeiros.
Animal Control tells ABC6 that when people feed strays, even though they think they are helping, they're actually adding to the problem. In fact the law says after 60 days of putting food out the cat belongs to you, meaning you become responsible for spay or neutering it.