Letter to the Editor

To whom it may concern,

My name is Kealaka‘i Matsumoto. I am a graduate of UH Hilo with a B.S. in Agriculture with a specialization in Pre-Veterinary Animal Science. I am the advisor of the Hawaii Island Pre-Veterinary Club (HIPVC) and was club president from 2014 to 2016. I am writing to clear up some false claims mentioned in a recent article regarding the management of feral cats on the university campus. The article stated that I never replied, but to my knowledge I was never contacted and would therefore like to take the time now to address the concerns expressed in the prior article.

The HIPVC manages the feral cats through a Modified Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program. TNR is not effective for every situation, but is well known as a successful means of population control for urban environments. The volunteers that participate in our program monitor cat populations at feeding stations through daily observation while feeding the cats 365 days a year.

A large concern amongst students is the funding of our program. The HIPVC applies for the maximum $1,000 club funding through UHHSA on an annual basis. The funding is available to all RISO’s that are willing to apply and provide justification for their request. The funding is awarded to promote student engagement which is the root of our program. The TNR program provides students with an opportunity to acquire practical experience hours that are required for Veterinary School while simultaneously providing service to the university and local community.

Regarding the remaining source of funds, the HIPVC relies on our long standing relationship with the community acquired through engagement in spay/neuter clinics, cat/kitten rehabilitation and adoptions, and other volunteer efforts. These relationships have led to private donations which are by far the largest contributors to our program. In response to the claim that we collect all HI-5 recyclables on campus, I have only to say that we do not have the time or the resources to do so. We are comprised of volunteer students and staff who have jobs and classes which would make doing so impossible. We collect the HI-5 materials from certain areas, but many areas on campus do their own recycling such as Housing and the College of Pharmacy. The bottom line is that the University; although academically and politically supportive, does not financially support the TNR program. This program is essentially a free service to the university, but it provides more to the students than to the cats.

The TNR program at UH Hilo is unique to say the least. If asked whether TNR works in rural areas or a conservation area I would agree with the comments of Dr. Lepczyk. TNR is not successful without certain criteria being met. The reason for our success lies in meeting the criteria of intense volunteer effort, small colonies, and nearly every cat being sterilized. Of the approximately 130 cats on campus, less than five are known to be intact. The final female cat was sterilized last year which is a huge part of our success. All kittens that are caught on campus are sterilized, tested for feline aids and leukemia, rehabilitated, and rehomed so that our population remains steady or decreases over time. If anyone sees a cat on campus and would like to know if it has been sterilized, the cat will have a “tipped” ear indicating sterilization has occurred. However, please be respectful and observe the cats from a distance.

I hope this letter has cleared up some of the misconceptions and earned your support for our program.