Hempstead feral cat program remains on hold; residents petition for its reopening

The Hempstead Town Animal Shelter has closed its doors to the public due to COVID-19, putting a popular program on hold that animal activists says helps control the feral cat population.
Sandra Adelson-Seyfried regularly feeds and houses about a dozen feral cats that find their way into her backyard.
"They keep me going, they keep me happy, they keep me alive," she says.
She had been relying on the Town of Hempstead's Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR) program to help control the feral cat population. But the town suspended the program due to COVID-19, and the animal shelter is only open for adoptions right now.
Adelson-Seyfried says that meant she had to spend her own money and hire an independent trapper.
Trapper Renee Kraft, who is also a Hempstead resident, says the program should have resumed when Long Island entered phase two. She started a petition to gain support to reopen the program.
"Money's been allocated for these services. It's been funded by the taxpayers, and they're not being provided," says Kraft.
Hempstead Town officials says the program has not been canceled, but rather put on hold because they say any program that would be encouraging people to come in and out of the shelter on a regular basis had to be minimized. They say there is a plan to restart it.
"The town board is actually looking into a Request for Proposal right now so we can start it up right now in a safe manner," says town Medical Director Dr. David Neubert.
Kraft says a different program may not mirror what was in place and provide the benefits and services that are needed.
Town of Hempstead officials say they typically do more than 2,800 TNR surgeries a year, which could mean up to 50 different animals a day coming to the shelter. They say they make every effort to minimize the number of healthy animals coming in during the pandemic, so as not to increase the possibility of exposure to the virus.