PUEBLO – The trio of kittens are only a few days old. They’re asleep inside a pet carrier with a blanket and heating pad when our news cameras arrive. They mew loudly when Lisa Buccambuso lifts them out for a close-up.
Lisa Buccambuso, Executive Director of Southern Colorado Spay and Neuter Clinic, holds newborn kittens.”Kittens this age require to be fed every two hours,” she explains. “You have to wake up in the middle of the night in order to take care of these kittens.”
Bottle feeding and raising neonatal kittens is a labor of love for Buccambuso and the volunteers who help her at the Southern Colorado Spay and Neuter Clinic. The non-profit’s mission to provide low-cost spay and neuter services to the community as a means of keeping the pet population under control.
Lately, they’ve taken on some additional duties in the aftermath of the city’s disastrous handling of its animal service contract.
The kittens were dropped off at the Pueblo animal shelter earlier in the week. Under the limited terms of the 90-day emergency contract signed with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, there just aren’t enough resources to care for the kittens.
“We would have loved to be able to offer all of the services we had previously, but we’re not able to do that,” says Julie Justman, the Director of Strategic Initiatives for HSPPR.
She says the group doesn’t have an operating surgical center or even fulltime veterinary coverage. As it is, they work with local vets in the city to provide just the basic care for animals brought in.
A year ago, Justman and her staff would have easily been able to care for and eventually adopt out the kittens. What’s more, they ran a successful trap, neuter and release program to curb feral cat overpopulation in the city.
Those programs all ended New Year’s Day when Paws for Life took over the animal services contract. Then in March, state inspectors found deplorable conditions inside the shelter and later pulled the group’s license. The emergency agreement with HSPPR was signed less than a month ago.
Justman and the Pueblo community are depending on charities like So-Co to fill-in the gaps. The arrival of kittens suggests feral cat colonies are reproducing again. Buccambuso just received a grant from the Pueblo Humane Society to help pay the cost of neutering feral casts so that colony volunteers can continue their efforts.
“The colony managers don’t have to pay for it. They’re already paying for food, they’re paying for so much for these feral animals that they’re taking care of,” she says.
Feral cats can reproduce as quickly as nine weeks and Buccambuso hopes the grant will preserve some of the hard work achieved by Pueblo Animal Services. Both animal organizations hope that the city’s next contract will include funding to continue these programs.