CHADWICKS — From beginning her small cat rescue about a dozen years ago to becoming an advocate for change in animal abuse laws and other issues, Cindy Dittmar is continuing her fight for felines as her small rescue faces big challenges.
Dittmar started the Road to Home Rescue Support (RTHRS) Purrfect Paws Cat & Kitten Rescue, 3240 Oneida St., a cat and kitten rescue group located in her town.
“We began our work 12 years ago by providing TNR (trap and release) services to area barns overburdened with large colonies of feral cats and kittens,” said Dittmar. “When possible, our work also included rescuing abandoned and motherless kittens throughout Oneida County.”
In 2018, the group became the non-profit RTHRS group. The rescue now fosters 33 kittens under the age of 12 weeks and 13 adult cats in a home setting, providing a safe place and full vetting services for the abandoned, neglected and abused cats and kittens until they are adopted,” Dittmar said.
“Our rescue offers a safe haven for cats and kittens whose owners are in an abusive relationship and fear for their cat’s safety, where it can stay until the owner is able to find a safe place for themselves and their pet,” she explained. “Our only sources of funding are our fund-raising events and private donations.”
One of the biggest problems Dittmar said her rescue faces today is animal abuse and neglect. Cats and kittens are dumped, abandoned, and killed with little or no hope of finding those responsible.
“The number of abandoned, neglected and abused cats and kittens is at an all-time high, as is as the population of feral colonies in Oneida County,” said Dittmar. “Small rescues are overwhelmed with the amount of cats and kittens arriving daily. The laws for cats in New York are non-existent, and the problems small rescues face because of this is shutting us down.”
“One of the most difficult obstacles in dealing with animal abuse is the unsubstantial AG & Markets Laws as they are written,” she continued.
“Our laws do not require owners to spay, neuter, or license and microchip their pets. Because of this, cats are considered disposable.”
The cat advocate said another problem that arises from not having mandatory spay/neuter, licensing and micro-chipping laws in place is that anyone claiming a cat in her rescue’s care can do so without any proof of ownership.
“If someone chooses to claim one of our rescues, we have no legal standing to retain the cat, and expenses for their care are lost as well,” Dittmar said. “Legislation needs to be passed requiring all cat owners spay/neuter, license and microchip their pets — only then will many of these issues cease to exist.”
Because of this, RTHRS is embarking on a campaign to introduce legislation to require mandatory spay/neuter and micro-chipping of all cats and kittens in Oneida County. The group’s mission is to raise awareness of the need for the legislation, and the group is calling on local elected officials to support their efforts.
“Micro-chipping will facilitate rescues’ efforts to locate the abandoned, neglected and abused cats’ and kittens’ owners, as well as identifying the owners of lost cats and kittens,” Dittmar said. “Mandatory spay/neuter legislation will also control the over-population of cats and kittens, many of whom are abandoned when their owners are unable or unwilling to care for them.”
Dittmar said her rescue has been attacked via social media as it is accused of “stealing pets” because these owners are unable to provide proof of ownership.
“We have no resources to protect ourselves from damaging accusations from people who claim they own the cat, although they can provide no proof of ownership,” she said. “We are often labeled as thieves, liars, scam artists, frauds and much worse, simply because we cannot prove ownership of a particular cat. This can and has affected our ability to raise funds for our non-profit rescues. And filing harassment charges against the offenders does little to stop this...We filed a neglect case with ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and were harassed on social media with damaging effects, and the person who caused this had no proof of ownership. The cat was not returned to the acclaimed owner, but not before the damage to our rescue was done.”
The advocate said her rescue group is asking area residents to contact their local legislators asking them to support a bill that requires mandatory spay/neutering, licensing and microchipping for all cats.
“Because of the non-existent laws for cats, our mouths are gagged and our hands are tied,” Dittmar said. “However, our feet are not bound. We can and will stand and fight for better laws.”