ROCHESTER, NEW YORK – An Irondequoit woman says she will not stop feeding hundreds of feral and stray cats after one of the makeshift shelters she built for the animals was removed and another one was recently discovered to be destroyed.
“I’m not going to stop,” admitted Janine Wagner, who makes 14 stops in Rochester’s Beechwood neighborhood area at about 4 a.m. each and every morning.
“The only thing that drives me is that I know those cats are starving right now. They haven’t had food in their bowls since I left yesterday.”
She’s been doing this for approximately 20 years and paying for everything out of her own pocket.
She claims that she rescued 80 cats last year by getting them their shots, nursing them to health and helping to place them in loving homes.
Wagner built several makeshift homes for the animals by using tarps, wood, plastic totes, straw and some other various materials.
City crews removed one of the small structures after receiving many complaints from neighbors and the Monroe County Department of Health over a rat issue, explained Norman Jones, who is the commissioner of city’s Department of Environmental Services.
“The City of Rochester has nothing against the cat population,” he stated. “It’s our job to make sure we take care of public health and make sure if there is anything that impacts public health we remediate that.
“It was setting up an environmental nightmare for the people that live there.”
Some of the shelters are hidden from motorists, while others are located on vacant properties, under porches and even near overgrown lawns and other areas littered with empty liquor bottles and trash.
Cheryl Arguinzoni lives on Grand Avenue and claims she hasn’t noticed any signs of rats although there is a shelter is located near her property.
“Generally, the cats keep the mice and rats away,” she stated.
Other cities have turned to trap, neuter and return programs to help control their feral cat populations and deal with rats, stated Eileen Wrona, who lives on Marion Street in the city and has requested a meeting with the city on the issue.
“They’re just taking the issue and moving it someplace else,” she stated as she pointed to programs in New York City, Chicago, Baltimore and elsewhere.
“All these other major cities are using these feral colonies to combat the rat issues that they have.”
The city does not have such a program but is now working with a number of groups to address to address various community cat concerns as they are brought to the city’s attention, stated Christopher Fitzgerald, director of the city’s Animal Services.
“We recognize (trap, neuter and return) as the most viable option for managing stray cats,” he stated in an email.
Wagner still plans on feeding and taking in some of the cats, sounding more resolved to continue her efforts which are shared on social media and a blog at thebean10.blogspot.com
“It’s up to us as individuals to do it and the city should be supporting us,” Wagner concludes: “They are hungry. (It) would be cruelty to animals to not provide them food and shelter and water.”