Actor Kevin Conway of CBS show ‘The Good Wife’ is ‘celebrity trapper’ for event
ASBURY PARK, N.J. — Synchronicity has led to an unusual partnership between a successful real estate developer, national and local animal rescue groups, a TV star and volunteers to help cats living under a historic boardwalk on the Jersey shore.
Between Wednesday, Nov. 17, and Friday, Nov. 19, about 75 cats who share space with the Asbury Park Boardwalk will be humanely trapped, spayed or neutered and vaccinated by volunteers who will have just completed a “feline boot camp.” The boot camp, conducted by national animal welfare organization Best Friends Animal Society, will be held at Monmouth County SPCA on Nov. 17 to train volunteers in the method of trap/neuter/return (TNR). TNR is used across the country to humanely control populations of “community cats” (which includes feral, stray and abandoned house cats who form colonies for survival).
Laurie Garrison, executive director of the Monmouth County SPCA (MCSPCA), said an “amazing group” of veterinarians and vet technicians from Red Bank Veterinary Hospital are volunteering their time for the event.
Shelly Kotter, Best Friends’ community cat expert who will lead the feline boot camp, is impressed with the string of events leading to this boardwalk TNR project.
“I never would have known about the Asbury Park Boardwalk cats if I hadn’t stayed at a hotel on the boardwalk,” Kotter said. She had stayed at the hotel during a previous visit to MCSPCA and learned about the unusual collaboration between the president of the development company Madison Marquette, his wife, MCSPCA, and others to help these cats, who really needed some friends.
Garrison said she is excited that the collaboration for the upcoming TNR project includes veternarians, vet clinic, and mobile spay/neuter mobiles. , “Red Bank Veterinary Hospital has been a supporter of MCSPCA for many years and Dr. Alene Opatut, who is also on the MCSPCA Board of Trustees, has been instrumental in gathering the doctors and techs,” Garrison said.
“Dr. Jane Potter and Dr. Laura Collins have helped with the planning. From the MCSPCA, community cat coordinator Francesca Alexander and assistant animal care manager Steve Arrison are helping with trapping and assisting with TNR on both days. Our volunteer coordinator, Perri Blind, is lining up volunteers to help the days go smoothly. Two mobile spay/neuter vans have been generously provided by the Animal Welfare Association and the Passaic County Mobile Spay/Neuter Coalition so we can spay/neuter on site,” Garrison said.
Kotter remembers when she first spotted the Asbury boardwalk cats. When she asked about the cats, she was introduced to Gary Mottola, the developer who revitalized this historic boardwalk.
Mottola told Kotter that his wife, Irene Mottola, has been involved in animal rescue all her life. Gary and Irene, Debbie DeLisa (the manager of the Wonder Bar on the boardwalk), and a local cat caregiver, Marge Leeds, had already rescued about 40 cats when Shelly met them. The cats had been spayed/neutered through the help of MCSPCA. The Mottolas had even converted the second floor of their development company, Madison Marquette, into a sanctuary for these cats and had adopted out the friendly ones.
But as is happening across the country, as the economy turned sour, more and more families were losing their homes, or just not able to afford their pets anymore. “People are still dumping cats at the boardwalk,” Mottola said. “So now our plan is to take the remaining cats, do the trap, neuter, return and create a cat colony. We needed to do something to show the public the best way to take care of these homeless cats and keep the area pleasant for people, too. My wife, Debbie and I are experienced in animal rescue but the concept of developing a cat colony with shelters and feeding stations is new to us.
“We are so grateful that Best Friends is coming to help us and show us the right way to do this and to Monmouth County SPCA for their help with the cats since we started this project,” Mottola said.
“All of us here at the MCSPCA are so excited to help spay/neuter the Asbury Park Boardwalk cats. This is a true team effort to save these kitties’ lives,” Garrison said.