Fact 1: According to the New Jersey Board of Health, within seven years one male and one female cat, along with their offspring, can reproduce 140,000 cats.
Fact 2: Approximately 25,000 cats are killed every day in our nation.
Lori Stagnitto, of Solebury, has dedicated her life to saving the lives of cats and preventing them from reproducing by establishing Lambertville Animal Welfare (LAW).
“So many people who no longer want their cats, abandon them outside, believing they can fend for themselves,” says Suzanne Henrich, a LAW volunteer who nominated Lori for this month’s Times Publishing Newspapers’ “Good Neighbor” recognition.
“But this just isn’t true. These cats’ lives are cut short. Now forced to live in the outdoors, cats must fight infections and injuries, as they are prey to other animals.
“Lori has devoted her life to improving the welfare of cats. This is her full-time job and she does it voluntarily.”
Lori, who retired 10 years ago, admits to having a lifelong passion for cats. Even while working in corporate America, she rescued cats on her own. She currently owns 10 rescued pet cats.
For many years Lori has been caring for feral cats in her community, but two years ago she decided to found LAW with her partner, Heather Edwards, to expand services by recruiting volunteers and donations. She describes their rescue organization as a collaboration between other rescue groups, veterinary offices, local businesses, residents and Animal Control.
“We have no shelter,” explains Lori, “so we place our adoptable cats in foster homes.”
According to Lori, areas like Lambertville and New Hope have large populations of community (feral) cats, as they are such densely populated towns. The cats live under buildings and behind backyards, but sporadically receive food from patrons of local restaurants.
“The only solution to control these cat populations from growing out of proportion is to use the TNR (trap, neuter and return) approach,” says Lori, who goes out herself to trap the cats.
She then works with a low-cost clinic to get the cats neutered or spayed at reasonably low costs, then places the kittens and adoptable cats in foster homes until they are adopted. She returns the feral cats to their original community, hiring a volunteer to routinely feed the cats and clean their shelter, a home filled with hay that Lori provides.
She assigns one volunteer to monitor each cat community.
Suzanne has recently begun volunteering for LAW, caring for about eight feral cats.
“Some of these cats are very friendly and have learned to recognize me,” says Suzanne. “When they see me drive up they come to my car, knowing I have food.”
According to Suzanne, Lori knows virtually all the cats that live in these communities and worries about them.
“If she hasn’t seen an older cat for a while, she asks me to look for him during my visit,” says Suzanne, who also reports in to Lori about any injured, sick or new cats living within the community.
In addition, LAW offers a barn program for feral cats who are living in dangerous locations or whose homes are about to be demolished.
“While most other people would simply kill these feral cats, we take them out of their community and help acclimate them to living in a barn setting,” says Lori.
LAW also offers a unique program called Seniors to Seniors. “We often have senior cats who are not as adoptable as kittens, so we match them to senior citizens.
“Seniors can benefit from the companionship of a senior cat without taking on the financial burden of vet care,” adds Lori.
For qualifying senior adopters, LAW pays for all future health care for the life of the cat. LAW currently has about 50 adoptable cats and kittens that you can see on its website (see website address listed below).
“All of these cats or neutered or spayed,” says Lori. “Plus, we do extensive healthcare checks on our cats, ensuring they don’t have diseases and making certain they are vaccinated. We have blood work done on older cats. In addition, all cats are microchipped.”
The vast majority of kittens and cats that LAW takes in are adoptable. Most of these cats are surrendered pets to Animal Control or lost pets that are never claimed. This past January, 10 of LAW’s cats were adopted.
Says Lori, “We are saving the lives of so many cats, working with the community who want to help.”
If you’re interested in donating your time or money to saving a cat, contact LAW at www.lambertvilleanimalwelfare.org.
PHOTO CAP: Lori Stagnitto