Feral Cat Coalition Clinic Procedures
Telephone Screening Protocol
The way the FCC handles calls is as follows: We have a message center with a public number. Volunteers are assigned days of the week, or month, to call the machine and collect data from that day. The guidelines for dealing with that data is outlined below.
Some hotline callers just want information about the organization or wish to volunteer at clinics. These messages can be given to the Volunteer Coordinator. Do not contact these callers or give out the Volunteer Coordinator's phone number. Simply relay the message to the Volunteer Coordinator, (insert appropriate number). If a call is from the media or outside San Diego County relay the message to (insert appropriate number).
All other calls you can screen yourself.
For all trapping screeners use the following procedure:
- Find out if this is a situation in which the FCC should be involved. Ask the following:
- Are the cats unowned? FCC only neuters unowned cats. If the cats are simply outdoor pets, the caller should be referred to Pet Assistance for low-cost spay and neuter information 619-544-1222. Pet Assistance often has a subsidy available for help in spay and neuter for those in need (pets or ferals O.K.). Whenever the FCC is not the right solution, suggest that the caller enlist his own veterinarian in the low-cost spay/neuter program. It is important that the burden of caring for the feral cat population be spread among more vets.
- Is there a feeder/caretaker for the cats? We cannot trap and neuter cats which will simply be returned to a situation where they are not likely to survive. We, therefore, only trap where there is a regular feeder/caretaker for the cats. Encourage the caller to take on this responsibility.
- Is the caller/feeder willing to take the cats back and continue to care for them after neutering? FCC does not remove or relocate cats. Cats that are dumped in other areas will most likely be driven away by resident cats. Cats cannot hunt to survive unless taught by their mother when young. We do not take cats to Animal Control. If the caller wants the cats removed, he will have to contact Animal Control (which will not come out to trap but will lend/rent the caller traps).
- Are the cats at least 5 months old? While kittens can be neutered at 8 weeks, FCC cannot properly screen kittens for health problems at the clinics. Clinic anesthesia techniques are not appropriate for young kittens. Feral kittens are often flea anemic and may be incubating illnesses which are not apparent when trapped. Unless kittens are healthy, they are poor risks for surgery. They should be captured long enough before surgery to be checked for health problems and treated. They should also be kept indoors and monitored after neutering for a couple of weeks or more. Callers who wish to spay/neuter kittens may use FCC traps but must arrange with a private veterinarian for the surgery. Or refer to the "Weekly Spay Neuter Commitments" list and call the appropriate contact person who will arrange an appointment. Alternatively, you can refer them to Pet Assistance for a low-cost vet in their area.
- Does the caller have legal access/permission to trap on the property where the cats have been frequenting? Permission must be obtained from landlords/neighbors if the caller does not own the property.
- Are the cats wild or tame (and maybe quasi-pets)? The FCC is not a free spay/neuter service for pets! There is often a fine line between a stray cat that someone is feeding in their yard and an outdoor pet. Ask if the caller is willing to relinquish the pet should someone want to adopt it. If the caller says "No" then the cat is a pet. (The FCC does not do adoptions but this question may discourage someone from sneaking in a pet.) While many unowned cats are tame from contact with the caretaker or tame because they were once owned, FCC must be careful to screen out situations in which the caller has actually become the owner of the cat and should be referred to Pet Assistance. This is a very grey area. Many ferals are quite tame and would still qualify for FCC sterilization. Use your own judgement on this. Cats with collars will be rejected at clinics.
- Is the caller planning to find a home for the cat? If the cat is going to be put up for adoption, this is also a Pet Assistance/private vet case. The veterinarians who donate their weekends and clinics to FCC are there to curb the over-population of feral cats and do not wish to take business away from local vets. Emphasize that each cat admitted at the clinic and at "Weekly Vets" will have a small portion cut off the top of its right ear to indicate that it has been sterilized. The only exceptions to this are young kittens which must be fixed by certain "Weekly Vets". (See "Weekly Spay/Neuter Commitments" list.)
- Are there very young kittens involved? Newborn kittens should not be separated from the mother for very long. If lactating female with kittens is trapped for spaying, she will be separated from her young for approximately 36 hours. Young kittens may not survive this. Kittens under 4 weeks old should not be taken from the mother for taming. While the FCC does have handouts available for "Raising Orphan Kittens" and "Taming Feral Kittens", we do not foster or adopt out kittens. We should encourage callers to take on this responsibility if they can. As a telephone screener, you should mail out these handouts when requested.
- Is a neighbor or someone else involved with the cats that might object to them being trapped and neutered? There is no point in spending the time neutering these cats if a neighbor is going to kill, or remove them, or interfere in the trapping process. Try to make sure that the caller is not trapping a neighbor's cat or planning to use FCC to remove the cats to Animal Control. Callers should inform neighbors when they are trapping so those neighbors can keep their pets indoors.
- Are any of the cats pregnant? The FCC does spay pregnant females. The surgery is somewhat more involved for pregnant cats. These females will need to be kept by the caller for a couple of extra days after surgery prior to release. If a clinic reservation is not available for some time, you and the caller will have to discuss alternatives. The cat may be trapped as soon as possible and taken to a low-cost vet (Pet Assistance) or one of our "Weekly Vets." Or you can hope that the cat will not give birth before the scheduled clinic. If the cat does give birth before the clinic, you should discuss with the caller whether they want to have the cat spayed at the clinic anyway or wait until the kittens are at lesser risk (see "h" above).
Pregnant cats should be given priority for booking at the clinics or "Weekly Vets". Do not tell this to the caller, however, or you may find them all claiming to have a pregnant cat to trap in order to get a quick reservation.
- Is this an emergency situation? Cats should be directed to monthly clinics except in cases of emergency. Of course, to most callers, it is always an "emergency situation". Try to find out (in a subtle way) if this is a case that should not wait for the next available clinic. For instance, if a cat is quite pregnant. Or, if the cat is sick, injured or already trapped, the caller may not want to wait for the next clinic. Give emergency cases priority. Have the callers contact Pet Assistance or refer to the "Weekly Spay/Neuter Commitments" list and YOU call the contact persons designated to make these appointments. (All traps borrowed between clinics must be returned to the Trap Depot by the Monday prior to the next Clinic, and, of course are subject to the same deposit etc. as other borrowed traps.)
In hardship cases where emergency medical treatment is needed, have callers call Pet Assistance and Mercy Crusade (see your "Animal Help Agencies") for financial assistance. If that agency cannot supply enough financial help for the feral cat, the FCC does have an Emergency Medical Fund. You contact (your contact person) to O.K. FCC medical financial assistance for up to $50.00 per cat. Never give out her phone number to the public for this. She will contact them and discuss the program. Funds for this purpose are limited. When the budgeted amount for a fiscal year runs out we will not be able to offer help until the following year. So, use good judgement when referring these cases for approval.
You may want to offer the caller the option of purchasing a trap directly from the trap company. Traps ordered over the phone can be received via UPS in about a week. The cost for one trap is approximately $50, plus shipping. The traps can be ordered from Tomahawk Live Trap Co. by calling 1-800-27-A-TRAP. The trap model number the FCC recommends for trapping cats is the model #106. The FCC does NOT sell traps to the public.
- FCC clinics are primarily designed to spay and neuter large numbers of feral cats. Medical treatment at FCC clinics is limited. Cats receive a rabies shot, antibiotic injection, and ear mite treatment. Some obvious conditions may be addressed at the clinic and treatment prescribed by the veterinarian. Cats are not tested and do not receive vaccinations for disease. Callers who wish to have these tests/vaccinations or to have cats treated for serious illnesses or injuries should take them to their local veterinarian or use our "Weekly Vets." They should expect to pay for these extra services.
Callers may tend to talk on and on about "their" cats. Try to keep them on track and don't let them keep you on the phone too long.
If a caller is belligerent or overly demanding, politely remind him that we are volunteers and expect as much help and cooperation from the people we help as those people are able to give. Persons willing to "pitch in" and do at least some of the work, will get attention faster than those who need us to do everything. We do have a large demand from the public and a shortage of trappers.
Be sure to mention that the FCC is an ALL-VOLUNTEER organization and that we are always in need of any donation that the caller can manage to give. Mention also that we always need good volunteers if they are interested in phone, public relations, clinic, or trapping positions.
If in your judgement the caller's situation is one in which FCC should be involved, proceed to the next step.
- If FCC is to proceed, then get the following information: (Use your "Screener Sanity Notes" sheet)
- How they heard about us. Keep a record of this and send it with the competed "Name/Address Collector"
- Full name of caller. Include on "Name/Address Collector"
- Complete address of caller. Include on "Name/Address Collector"
- Home and work phone #'s.
- Area of town where cats are located (& address if different from caller's)
- If the caller is calling for another person get all of the above information for that person as well.
- Number of cats involved (including number of adults and ages of kittens)
- Can the caller trap and transport the cats to the clinic himself? If so, how many traps can the caller fit into his car? Traps are 26"x9"x9", about 1/3 larger than a mailbox. Explain to the caller that there is a long waiting list for FCC Trappers and if the caller does not want to wait a month or more for an available trapper, he should consider trapping himself with FCC traps. If the caller's car isn't big enough maybe he can borrow the car of a friend or neighbor. Cats not in traps MUST be in airline type carriers and fully visible. Only one cat per trap or carrier. No cardboard carriers.
It is important to encourage callers to become involved in this process as much as possible due to the severe shortage of FCC Trappers. FCC provides detailed "Humane Trapping Instructions" as well as "Drop Off/ Pick Up Instructions" for the clinics with the traps. Trapping is not that difficult when using the proper technique. Give a brief description of the trapping process.
Ask callers if they would like any of our other informational handouts as appropriate to the situation.
EMPHASIZE that all traps borrowed from the FCC require a fully refundable deposit of $35.00 per trap (check or credit card # etc. acceptable with proper ID). If a caller is obviously destitute and says he cannot leave the deposit, you can use your own judgement on whether or not to waive the deposit. We certainly don't want cats to be turned away because of this problem. Let the person know that the traps are valuable and must be returned on time for others to use. It is not a good idea to give a large number of traps to someone who does not want to leave a deposit or is unknown to you.
Explain to the caller that he will be trapping the night before the clinic and will need to arrange to hold the cats in the traps overnight in a safe area (enclosed yard or garage). EMPHASIZE no food for 12 hours before surgery. Therefore, they should NOT be trapping the morning of the clinic!
The cats will also need to be picked up at the clinic approximately 4-5 hours after drop off time (as instructed by the clinic admitting volunteers) and kept overnight again before release the next day. For females, the caller must also be prepared to keep them in the trap for a possible additional day or two in a safe area with food and water (especially if pregnant). If the caller can't do this, see if they can ask a neighbor or friend for help. If the caller is unable or not willing to do this, he will have to wait for an available trapper, or take the cats to a local vet. Sometimes the caller is willing to trap but unable to transport the cats to the clinic. In this case an FCC trapper or clinic volunteer may pick up the cats and take them to the clinic. The more things the caller can do for himself (or find a friend to do) the faster his cats can be booked into the clinic. People often find a way to handle the situation if forced to do so.
- Which clinic date would be best for the caller? Callers will probably want the clinic closest to their area of town. Explain that all cats MUST have a reservation at the clinic to be admitted. It is usually a good idea to call for clinic reservations as soon as you've agreed upon a desired clinic date since clinics sometimes get booked up early. Do not give the caller the phone number of the clinic reservation person. (If the public makes reservations directly the Clinic Booking person has no way of determining if the caller has been properly screened and has needed traps and trapping information.) If the caller has traps already, you can call to reserve the clinic slot. If the caller needs to obtain FCC traps, you call the Trap Depot person to reserve traps (See "3" below) and have the Trap Depot make clinic reservations. Please don't give out phone numbers of trappers or weekly vet contact persons without their permission.
While you can discuss the dates, times and general location of clinics, do not give specifics (clinic name and address) until the reservation has been made. We don't want people just showing up without reservations and cats not prepared for surgery.
- All persons trapping for the clinic should receive the "Humane Trapping Instructions" and "Clinic Drop Off And Pick Up Instructions" prior to trapping. Persons obtaining traps from the depots will receive these handouts there. For anyone not obtaining traps from the depot (i.e. have their own trap or carrier), you must mail them these handouts prior to trapping so they understand the most effective techniques and the requirements of the clinic! Write down directions to the clinic and drop off times for them as well. Send other informational flyers out as needed.
- OBTAINING TRAPS: Explain to the caller that there may be a waiting list for traps, which must be reserved well before each clinic. However, if the caller is willing to travel for traps there always should be some available. If you do not have traps under your control, contact the appropriate Trap Depot for the caller's area. (If that depot is out of traps for the desired clinic date, you may have to call around to other depots for traps. It may be a good idea to ask the caller if he is willing to travel for traps before you do a lot of calling around for traps.)
Tell the caller that traps are generally due back in 1 week. If traps are used between clinics (for "Weekly Vet" or private vet appointments for example) they must be returned no later than the Monday before the following clinic so they are available for clinic use.
Remind the caller to bring the appropriate deposit to the Trap Depot.
Have the Trap Depot contact the caller. Don't give out the phone number of the Trap Depot. You might want to have the caller contact you if they haven't heard from the Trap Depot within a reasonable length of time, so you can follow up or make other arrangements.
If you learn before the clinic that the caller will not be using the reserved traps, contact the Trap Depot so he can lend traps to others that may be on a waiting list.
Remind the Trap Depot to make the clinic reservation. Tell the Trap Depot if the number of cats needing reservations is different from the number of traps! If more than one Trap Depot is lending traps to the caller, just have one of them make the reservation for the entire amount of cats.
- OBTAINING TRAPPERS/TRANSPORTERS: If the caller insists that he needs an FCC Trapper or Transporter, try to obtain one from the "Trappers/Transporters" list. You call the Trapper or Transporter and have him contact the caller to make arrangements. You should still arrange for any needed traps if the Trapper has none of his own. Reserve the traps in the Trapper's name. Have the Trap Depot contact the Trapper regarding picking up traps. Tell the caller to contact you if they haven't heard from the Trapper/Transporter within a reasonable length of time so you can follow up with the Trapper/Transporter or make other arrangements.
Once a Trapper/Transporter is reserved, YOU make the clinic reservations.
- MAKING CLINIC RESERVATIONS: If no traps are needed from the Trap Depot YOU make the clinic reservation in the caller's name with the Clinic Reservation person (your contact person and number). Give the Clinic Reservation person the number of cats and the name and phone number of the person who will be bringing the cats to the clinic. (If an FCC trapper is doing the trapping, you book the cats onto the reservation list under the trapper's name.)
Remember that if a Trap Depot is involved the Trap Depot will be making the clinic reservations, and you don't have to.
Don't wait until the last minute to make clinic reservations (or any other reservations for that matter). Clinics sometimes get fully booked by the week before the clinic and Trap Depots near the clinic run out of traps early. Don't be shut out. Call early.
You might want the caller to contact you should he need to cancel his clinic reservation so you can cancel the reservation for traps and for the Trapper/Transporter and clinic so others on a waiting list can have a chance.
Never give out the veterinary clinic phone number to the public or to volunteers. They are not to call the vet's office under any circumstances. Host vets have nothing to do with scheduling, reservations or giving directions, times, etc. (You give the directions, etc.) If vets are bothered in this way they will quit and we will have no more FCC!
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[Page updated November 2009]