Student aids struggling animals

Cheryl Supernavage’s volunteer work with cats like Julia, a former stray, has led her to work with PET SAVERS to start a trap-neuter-release program.

By Lacey Colby

It isn’t uncommon to hear stories about mistreated animals, but most people aren’t very familiar with the plight of animals just struggling to survive each day outside of loving homes.

Senior Cheryl Supernavage, a finance major, donates much of her time to helping these animals.

By volunteering at the four PetSmart locations of Gloucester County Animal Shelter, Supernavage has seen many cats at the shelter who have been mistreated, abandoned or missing human affection. Many of them are brought around to have much better lives in comfortable homes, but some are not so lucky.

“I have been and always will be an animal lover,” Supernavage said. “I went to the shelter every day for a week because one of the cats stopped eating. I could not give up on her. I bought so many different types of foods. Finally, she started eating, and I ended up adopting her.”

Supernavage recently joined the new effort to help stray animals in Gloucester County. PET SAVERS is a non-profit organization that works with Gloucester County Animal Shelter.

“Our goal is to educate the public about the proper treatment of pets, to help save the lives of companion animals throughout shelter involvement, and to establish a trap-neuter-release program,” Supernavage said.

Such programs allow people to catch feral and stray cats, have them neutered and set them free after they have healed. The intention of such a program is to control growing populations of stray cats and feral colonies.

Feral cats are ones that are born in the wild and have little to no human interaction. As a result, they are frightened when encountering people and may act aggressively if they have no means of escape. They tend to live in colonies, which occur when a fairly large population stays in one area to share a food source.

These colonies pose problems for both the cats and people dealing with them. Cats are susceptible to contagious diseases like rabies, feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia, as well as a great number of parasites. Un-neutered males will engage in territorial behaviors, which can scare off or cause serious harm to others. Domesticated cats can also react negatively to feral colonies, which can become quite a nuisance for their owners.

Without trap-neuter-release programs, captured feral cats — which are, in most cases, not adoptable because of their fight-or-flight tendency toward humans — are put down by Animal Control.

As a member of PET SAVERS, Supernavage must collect data from the county shelter in order to prove the necessity for a trap-neuter-release program. The data include the number of strays and feral cats per town, which ones have already been fixed, and then ages and genders. She will look at this data in each town to identify “problem areas.”

“In order to get the program up and running, we first must have data to back up why it is necessary,” Supernavage said. “One of the roadblocks we are facing, however, is community legislation of no animals ‘running at large.’”

Many towns have municipal statutes which forbid people to let their animals run loose. Any feral or stray cat captured and released after neutering is considered such. Supernavage hopes that trap-neuter-release successes in towns without the statutes will prompt other towns to work with the program.

The first PET SAVERS fundraising event will take place tonight at Adelphia’s in Deptford, N.J. The event, called Bark ’n’ Bid, will be a silent auction where people can bid on things like spa and beauty items, pet sitting coupons, River Sharks tickets, gift cards to restaurants, artwork, money and lottery baskets.

The money will go toward improving the lives of many animals without comfortable homes.

“I believe that animals should be given second chances,” Supernavage said. “You will never know love stronger than that of a rescue animal.  They exude such gratitude. It is an incredible feeling. I also whole-heartedly feel that animals should be treated properly, and by educating the public, hopefully, we can spread knowledge to people about the care animals really need.”

Bark ’n’ Bid begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 and include dinner and a drink. To learn more about PET SAVERS, go to www.petsaversnj.com.

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