Operation Clean Sweep is working to curb kitten overpopulation

Operation Clean Sweep, a two-year program to capture feral cats, spay or neuter them and return them to where they were captured, is scheduled to wrap up this week. On June 13 the project was 64 cats away from its goal of 2,645, and organizers were confident they would achieve it.

The program, operated by the nonprofit Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, is a joint effort with the Community Cat Coalition of Clark County, the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society, Clark County Animal Control and The Animal Foundation. The program, funded by a grant from PetSmart, is focused on two areas with notable feral cat populations on the east side of the valley. The first is bounded by Sahara Avenue on the south, Charleston Boulevard on the north, Sloan Lane on the east and U.S. Highway 95 on the west. The second is bounded by Owens Avenue on the south, Craig Road on the north, Los Feliz Street on the east and Pecos Road on the west.

Portions of the ZIP codes 89104, 89115, 89121, 89142 and 89156 are included.

"We had originally picked an area on the west side of town, but after eight months we’d only gotten 147 cats," said Judy Erickson, clinic director for Heaven Can Wait. "We were in danger of not being able to renew our grant for the second year because we weren’t getting the kind of results we’d hoped for, so we switched to the locations on the east side."

Both the group’s initial zone and the new zones were selected in part because the areas are in unincorporated Clark County, which allows registered colonies of feral cats under the Managed Care of Feral Cats ordinance enacted in October 2008. The ordinance is designed to help feral cat caretakers connect and better manage colonies. It also provides a certain amount of legal protection for managed feral cat colonies.

"The idea is that only so many cats will move into an area," Erickson said. "The goal is to capture and spay or neuter every cat in an area, such as a mobile home community or apartment complex. By reducing the breeding, we reduce the number of cats that will wind up in a shelter or euthanized."

The group works with residents and feral cat colony caretakers to snare the cats in cage traps. The animals are then transported to Heaven Can Wait, where they are sedated, checked out and spayed or neutered. A small tip is cut from one ear to identify that feral cat as having been sterilized.

"When we first started the program, they were all new cats," said Harold Vosko, co-founder of Heaven Can Wait. "These days maybe 5 to 10 percent of them are coming in with their ears already clipped."

The trapped cats that already have been processed are given a checkup and released where they were found.

Organizers are considering the program a great success and are pondering continuing the effort.

"I think we’re going to make our goal. I just wish more people had called us," Erickson said. "It could have been a lot quicker, but it’s hard to get people to go out and trap."

For more information or to volunteer, call 655-4800 or visit hcws.org.

Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 380-4532.

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