What turns a person into an animal advocate, focusing on one key cause connected with cats? When that person has significant professional responsibilities, a family and friends – all things that for others could be excuses for not doing much -- what makes her spend all kinds of time and her own money in abundance to help feral cats?
It’s hard to tell for sure, although Joyce Arciniaco says she grew up in a family of animal lovers, with cats and dogs. She also saw homeless cats and kittens and was aware of animal abuse in her neighborhood.
As she came to know about feral cat colonies, she noted that people who fed them often were unable to pay for neutering. Besides, in many cases, the cats were wild and couldn’t be handled easily.
Arciniaco had long recognized trap, neuter, release (TNR) as the best way to deal with ferals, letting them stay in place while preventing reproduction. “You need to get to the root of the problem, and that’s where it is,” she says.
So she started in Chambersburg, learning how to trap wild cats then transport them to a vet. At first, there was no discount for the number of procedures. These days, Arciniaco knows clinics where high volume, low cost neutering is the rule. That helps, of course, though she still pays out of pocket for the ferals she involves in TNR.
The “ear tip” – when the pointed tip of a cat’s ear has a small scallop out of it – means a feral cat’s already been neutered, had immunizations and was turned back outside. “They want to go back to where they were, their roots,” she says, explaining the importance of the “return” part of TNR. That, and their food source too: even when people can’t afford to neuter them, they feed ferals.
Arciniaco’s efforts have also extended to area shelters, Ewing in particular this year. She was a compelling speaker on behalf of the shelter animals at a Ewing council meeting last fall, and she has done the paperwork and paid for neutering many cats there.
She believes federal legislation could mandate spay-neuter for cats; drug companies should be charged to come up with feline contraceptives; and veterinarian schools should require students to do spay-neuter procedures as a community service.
A new year’s toast to Joyce Arciniaco: Here’s to the great work she does! May she continue helping cats and succeed at building support for TNR.