To commemoration the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., the Animal Welfare Association (AWA) in Voorhees is inviting people to participate in its second annual MLK Family Service Day on Monday, Jan. 15.
The eight-hour event is meant to encourage people of all ages to contribute to the community through hands-on activities that promote service, compassion and empathy. MLK day at the AWA takes a unique approach to honoring King’s legacy by organizing a clinic to care for feral cats, and its aligns with the shelter’s animal care programs in South Jersey that rely solely on donations for funding.
In 30-minute increments, attendees will also engage in crafting dog and cat toys from recycled materials, assisting with litter boxes, reading books to animals and preparing food for the AWA pet food pantry. That part of the day will take place from noon to 4 p.m.; the entire event is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The AWA will also offer a free spay/neuter clinic for more than 50 feral cats from Camden at 8 a.m. Feral cats are those born outdoors and living in a wild state outside a home. The animal procedures are funded by Spay it Forward, a way for the AWA – in collaboration with local trappers – to prevent overpopulation of the animals.
“The reason for doing this is to prevent thousands of unwanted kittens and to ensure they don’t end up homeless and without proper care,” explained AWA Executive Director Laura Houston. “Approximately six times a year, we offer this clinic, as research shows that a female cat can have up to 200 kittens in her life.
“By focusing on the females among the cats we receive, we’re making a significant impact.”
The feral cat clinic, orchestrated by AWA volunteers and staff, will be a streamlined process to provide rabies and distemper vaccines for the cats from Camden and keep the community safe from diseases they carry. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, feral cats can contract and spread a wide variety of diseases – including feline immunodeficiency virus (feline AIDS) and rabies, to domesticated animals.
“These diseases are highly contagious and transmitted through body fluids and direct contact,” Houston noted. “Any cat that spends time outside is also at risk for contracting and spreading various parasites to livestock and pets.”
According to the AWA clinic, becoming a cat caretaker and actively participating in Trap-Neuter-Return-Monitor (TNRM) initiatives is not just a responsibility, it’s a compassionate commitment to the welfare of community cats. As a caretaker, individuals play a crucial role in ensuring the animals’ well-being by providing care, overseeing spaying and neutering and monitoring their general health.
Those interested in contributing to that effort can extend their support to established community cat caretakers involved in TNRM by performing tasks such as feeding, trapping, vet transportation, temporary housing post surgery and fostering.
Individuals can also get involved by reaching out to local shelters or welfare groups regarding available TNRM programs in their area. To participate in any effort, visit the AWA website’s event page at awanj.org and register online.