New Hyde Park panel takes on feral cats

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New Hyde Park panel takes on feral cats
Kimberly Huemmer Kane (left), Diane Bentivegna (middle), and Dr. Kim Stein (right) organized the New Hyde Park Feral Cat Committee's first Trap-Neuter-Release initiative this August. (Photo courtesy of Diane Bentivegna)

A committee set up to deal with feral cats in New Hyde Park has completed its first sweep to find them, trapping four.

From Aug. 14 to 18, the newly formed New Hyde Park Feral Cat Committee and volunteers from New Hyde Park Memorial High School placed traps in neighborhoods based on tips and made house calls to residents who previously filed complaints.

Once trapped, the cats were taken to the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter to be spayed or neutered before being returned to their colony. 

“We got a number of locations that were disclosed to us, and we were successful,” Diane Bentivegna, chair of the New Hyde Park Citizens Council, said in a phone interview.  “We had naturally trapped four cats which were not spayed or neutered. They have since been returned to their neighborhoods to begin that process of declining the population.”

The cat committee was created under the supervision of the New Hyde Park Citizens Council. 

The initiative came after an incident in New Hyde Park earlier in the year in which over 90 cats were being starved, dehydrated and kept inhumanely in a resident’s home. That presented  an opportunity to inform people about feral cats coexisting with the community.

“We felt that there was a call for education and a call to action; there were a number of complaints,” said Bentivegna. “They’re going to be here whether they’re cared for or not. The incident in the village inspired awareness about the need to address the issue.” 

Cat colonies in the village are still being counted, according to Bentivegna, but residents call with complaints daily. 

“Once you begin to cap their populations by preventing them from reproducing, eventually there will be none around,” said Bentivegna. “The plan is to address that as efficiently as possible.”

The committee, made up of about 45 residents, was formed by the council after a push from the new village administration to support civic engagement. Mayor Christopher Devane, elected earlier this year, has been encouraging residents to participate in making life better in New Hyde Park, according to Bentivegna.

Similar practices to deal with feral cats are not new in Long Island, and some villages that ceased them have seen their feral cat populations rising. In 2019, the North Hempstead Town Board introduced “vouchers” to help residents supplement their trap-neuter-return programs in conjunction with the Port Washington Animal Hospital.

Bentivegna said she is pleased with the progress made during the first round of trap-neuter-return, and is thankful for the support received from the community so far, including the Memorial High School volunteers organized by Deputy Mayor Madhvi Nijjar.  

“They have shown a tremendous amount of not only interest but dedication in serving, especially in this particular manner,” Bentivegna said.

The initiative was conducted with equipment borrowed from the Town of Hempstead. After giving back the five traps that were provided, the committee received donations in the form of gloves to handle the felines, food for them and 11 traps, some of which coming from Devane as well as the New Hyde Park Unity Party.

To find out more about the committee or support it, residents can go to the village’s website or the committee’s Amazon wishlist.

Bentivegna said immediate plans are to hold a debriefing meeting and fine-tune the effort. Other steps include monitoring neighborhoods that are divided into quadrants so existing populations can be maintained and given the attention they need. Education and outreach is also anticipated at the New Hyde Park Street Fair Sept. 18. 

“I’m impressed about how responsive the community has been to this new adventure,” said Bentivegna.

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