Brighton Spay and Neuter Alliance helps spay, neuter, place felines


BRIGHTON — Diane Brandt saw a lot of complaints about a year and a half ago on the Brighton Neighbors Facebook group about cats overrunning yards, streets and subdivisions. A Macoupin County board member even proposed a daily limit for shooting stray cats.

Having seen a female feline in heat repeatedly attacked by five male cats on her block, and a female in a “winter home” being terrorized by males, Brandt said she could no longer take it. She and her friend, Cristy Marshall, both of Brighton, formed the Brighton Spa and Neuter Alliance.

“When the momma came out she was being attacked by males, so we got the babies, then was able to trap the momma and took them to a rescue,” Brandt recalled about the “winter home” situation.


“When we were doing the feral cats, one of the babies was only four months old and pregnant,” she said. “That’s very common around here.

“Different cities will grab cats and bring them out here and dump them. We see that a lot, and definitely on Miles Station Road,” she said. “My motivation is, I want to protect the cats and the kittens.”

The alliance humanely traps and takes feral cats for spay/neuter surgery, as well as individuals’ personal pet cats. The group also relocates cats, if possible, as needed, finds rescues for them, or returns them to their original location but no longer able to reproduce. The mobile spay and neutering effort is supported through donations and Brandt’s own money.

Brandt had been doing strictly trap neuter release (TNR) work until the alliance was formed.

“That’s all I did,” she said. “We made the spay/neuter group and then we started taking donations around Brighton, and a few in Godfrey because they know my group. Cristy recently went back to work; she helped me get it up and going.”

Brandt now partners with Maggie Wisnasky of Brighton who helps with trapping, spay/neuter appointments, and pre- and post-surgery care and placement. Wisnasky got involved because she had a family member who needed their cat fixed. The two work in conjunction with Carol House Furniture’s Carol House Quick Fix Pet Clinic and are planning two days of appointments, July 28-29, at the Carol House clinic for five cats each day.

“That’s a total of 10 cats that will get done those two days,” Brandt said. “So the 27th we are going to be trapping, and we already know the areas and what cats we’re going to try to get those days because of people who call. We go to more severe places first, or elderly residences first.”

The family-owned Carol House Furniture store is at 2332 Millpark Drive in Maryland Heights, Missouri. The Carol House Quick Fix Pet Clinic, which provides low-cost spaying and neutering, along with other services, is at 1218 S. Jefferson in St. Petersburg. Louis.

Carol House Quick Fix Pet Clinic’s mission is to reduce pet overpopulation by providing effective, accessible and affordable pet services. Brandt’s mission is pretty much the same.

Once cats are spayed/neutered, they undergo 24 hours of care, observation and recovery by the Brighton Spay and Neuter Alliance. Then feral cats are returned by the alliance to the colony from which they came, or homes or no-kill rescues. The alliance works closely with Partners 4 Pets based in Troy and the Metro East Humane Society.

“As we’ve gone on with us doing this, we came across so many kittens and cats, and the rescues are being bombarded,” Brandt said. “So what we do now is networking with a bunch of different rescues. Kittens and cats that people call us on, we get them into rescues.”

In one year the alliance has placed about 25 felines into rescues.

“We call non-feral cats ‘friendlys,'” Brandt said.

She said the cat overpopulation problem in Brighton has been somewhat alleviated, noting support from Brighton Mayor Matt Kasten, Brighton Police and the community.

“Our mayor stands behind everything we do,” she said. “In fact, I rent the old dog kennels from the village for $12 per year.

“When you have a town this size, it’s a work in progress,” she said. “We always get dumped cats, and this year we’re getting a lot of calls on dumped cats. I myself have rescue cats I’ve taken in.

“We have been accused of dumping cats because we bring them back, but those people just want them all gone,” Brandt said. “They say we are bringing them back and dumping, and that’s not what we’re about at all. Our No. 1 goal is protecting and finding homes for these cats.”

Brandt keeps the trapped feral felines in kennels at Brighton’s old dog kennel behind Betsey Ann Park. She also will pick up people’s personal cats and take them to appointments at the Carol House clinic where the cost of services is income-based.

“Maggie and I will give a them food and water, and they have to have a quiet place for 24 hours,” she said. “Then the cats are checked the next day. If they are eating, going to the bathroom, drinking, then we release the ferals back out to the colonies where they cannot reproduce. We only release them to the colony that they came from.

“People say, ‘Why can’t you release them somewhere else?'” Brandt said. “Because, that cat will find that original colony.”

She noted one case in which the alliance re-homed five cats to a Palmyra horse farm.

“It had been a hoarding situation,” she said. “After I took them to Carol House, I re-homed them to a horse farm. For a good few weeks, those cats have to get accustomed to their new location and their new caretaker. There’s very few people who can do that. It takes patience.

“When rescues go out to do TNR, a big thing they say is they do not relocate,” Brandt said. “They just let them go somewhere and that puts those cats in a dangerous situation of getting hurt and getting killed off. We do the best we can and find the best place we can relocate them. One of those five cats, right off the bat, immediately bonded with one of the horses, but it took a lot of patience and the caregiver wanting to take care of them and watch after them.”

The alliance has caretakers who keep an eye on heavily cat-populated areas and former trapping areas. Brandt said she has one location where she has to park down the street because the cats recognize her van.

“A caretaker touches base with me, and I ask them what they’re seeing now,” Brandt said. “They will let me know; we have quite a few.”

Not all rescues are feral, such as a female Siamese this past winter whose owner had moved.

“She left the pregnant cat outside in wintertime, and people contacted me,” Brandt said, adding Partners 4 Pets took three of the cat’s four kittens, and it, too, was adopted. “She was only a year old. She became pregnant at four months.”

The alliance work takes courage and confidence.

“Some of the feral cats we get are definitely not friendly cats,” Wisnasky said.

“They are wild,” Brandt said. “Some we don’t hardly dare. They’re wild and they will rip your hands apart. But once trapped and in kennels where it’s quiet, and we keep them covered, they realize we’re not there to hurt them.”

The pair feed kenneled cats up to the night before their appointments, taking food and water away at 10 pm so the animals are ready for surgery. The kennels are lined with newspaper. Kenneled cats are driven to appointments in a van that Brandt’s boyfriend bought her for the alliance.

“We have little bowls we stick in the kennels once they are in there and calmed down,” Brandt said. “You have to figure they just got trapped; they’re stressed, upset.”

Some cats also have flas or ear mites. Brandt pays the Carol House clinic fee for spay/neuter is $20 per feral cat. Flea medication is an extra $5; ear mite vaccinations are another $20.

“If they’re really bad, you have to use flea medication that covers flies, ticks and ear mites; it’s a combo,” she said. “They also get a $20 rabies shot, which is required in the state of Illinois.

“It takes a lot of patience and, to be honest, if I didn’t have Maggie to help me, I don’t know what I’d do,” Brandt said. “I do a lot of running, a lot of catching, in all kinds of weather.”

“We’ve we done it in the snow and the rain,” Wisnasky said.

Since the alliance began, only two cats have had to be euthanized. One arrived at its appointment very sick, and one had an abscess ulcer on its tongue on which it kept choking.

“We are eliminating problems, but we also are taking care of them and that is on us,” Brandt said.

The alliance also has handled two cat hoarding situations.

“We get all the cats out,” Brandt said. “There is another colony, all outside, and there are a lot, all feral.

“We got a majority of them; it’s a work in progress, but don’t let it drop,” she said. “You have to give that area a rest; these cats are smart.”

The alliance is creating a community dubbed “Feral City” at Brighton Auto which will be a food station and networking system about homes and information.

“We are now looking for more people,” she said. “Maggie works full time. We are looking for volunteers who will go through a training and must have the passion and patience like we do.

“The passion has got to be there,” she said. “The more volunteers we have, the more we can get done. The more donations we get, the more we can accomplish and go to the outer communities.”

The alliance’s goal is to go beyond Brighton to Bunker Hill and Jerseyville. Both towns are “bombarded” with cat overpopulation, Brandt said. Another subdivision they focused on last year was Piasa Lake, she said.

To donate mail a check to Brighton Spay and Neuter Alliance, PO Box 76, Brighton, 62012 or visit https://www.paypal.com/donate?hosted_button_id=ZZ49UGVFHV5XY.

Message the Facebook Brighton Spay and Neuter Alliance TNR Group (set to private but able to receive messages, and the group will get back to you) to contact Brandt, Wisnasky or Marshall. For details about the Carol House Quick Fix Pet Clinic, visit www.stlspayneuter.org.

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