Boy Scout helps to create houses to give feral cats shelter for winter

lynne.shackleford@shj.comNovember 7, 2013 

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— The generosity and ingenuity of one local Boy Scout will ensure feral cats in Spartanburg will stay warm, dry and safe this winter.

Chambers Easterling, 14, wanted to do something meaningful for his Eagle Scout project and considered a couple of projects to benefit local non-profit organizations, but he settled on the Spartanburg Humane Society after meeting with Ingrid Norris, Humane Society education coordinator, and Spartanburg Animal Services Officer Mike Johnson.

Chambers and a family friend, who is also a contractor, designed a box with a 6-inch hole for the cats to come and go and foam insulation with a removable top. After building six boxes, Chambers donated them to the Humane Society, and they have been delivered to feral cat colony caretakers.

Human Society officials spoke of the need for the boxes, since several people serve as caretakers of feral cat colonies in Spartanburg. The cats need refuge in the winter, Johnson said, but something that could be easily transported to a location, cleaned and with room for straw.

“Ingrid and Officer Mike gave Chambers the inspiration he needed,” said Carroll Easterling, Chambers’s mother. “They said they had spoken with several other Boy Scouts about doing the project, but no one had been interested, so I think it was a challenge at that point, too.”

Nancy Dischler, a retired school teacher, tends to several feral cat colonies in several locations and outside her home. Dischler said the boxes are a lifesaver for cats and those who care for them.

“These boxes are the biggest things that could be done for cats during the winter,” Dischler said. “The insulation is a big plus, and they’ll keep the cats dry and warm all winter.”

Carroll Easterling said her son was overwhelmed by the feedback from the Animal Services officers. On Tuesday, Chambers will appear before the Eagle Scout board, which will judge the project, its impact and whether Chambers will become an Eagle Scout.

“Chambers was so excited to help the Humane Society and in turn, the feral cats,” Easterling said. “They are doing really good things.”

Spartanburg Animal Services received a grant late last year that allows them to trap, neuter (or spay) and release feral cats back into the wild. So far, about 660 cats have been sterilized and freed and virtually no feral cats have been euthanized at the Spartanburg Humane Society this year. Three kittens that were terribly sick were euthanized — the only felines that have been euthanized this year, said Maj. Steve Lamb.

Animal services has taken a new, proactive approach to help feral cats, and those who are committed to their care. A TNR (trap, neuter and release ) approach is the only way to control the feral cat population, Lamb said.

“This is what makes sense,” Lamb said. “The solution is not to go out and trap these cats and euthanize them. It won’t work. What will work is to have them spayed or neutered so they’re less likely to fight or roam.”

Lamb will speak at a national conference in Washington, D.C. this weekend on the proactive measures Animal Services has taken on feral cats.

“Through social media, people are seeing what we’re doing, and we’re just humbled that we’ve made a difference in a pretty short time,” Lamb said.

Animal services is taking donations of large coolers and straw, which needs to be in a container. Animal services can install a cat door inside the cooler and place them near other cat colonies.

To donate large coolers, call Animal Services at 582-1558 or email animalservices@cityofspartanburg.org.

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