†By Katie Collins?News Eagle Reporter

HAWLEY- In 1997, Dr. Marilyn Pardine was appointed to deal with a cat problem in Hawley. Fifteen years later, although Pardine has bought a 10 acre farm, where over 70 cats currently reside, the cat problem of Hawley hasn't gone away.

In 1998, Pardine said because the problem was so huge, there was a cat roundup, where 50 cats were euthanized and others brought to her shelter where some have been adopted and others have gradually died off.

A retired physician, Pardine said part of the problem is that people are not doing what is necessary to maintain the cat population because they will not pay to have the animals spayed and neutered. With rows of cats in the Guardian's of Mercy Animal Shelter, Pardine pointed to one of the many cages in the shelter and said euthanizing, "is not the solution, as you can see." As people try to deal with the animals, Pardine said she has heard of people poisoning cats, which she said, will not solve the problem either because, "if you donít fix these cats, theyíre going to multiply."

Funding for the animals is primarily coming from Pardine and a few donations here and there. The funding that the shelter does receive, Pardine said is not enough. On average, Pardine said each cat cost about $2.00 a day because of the cost of food, liter and electricity. Pardineís monthly liter bill is $300. Frustrated with the lack of help from people, Pardine said when people leave cats at the shelter, they donít pay anything. And when people want to adopt, itís a problem because most people want kittens or barn cats, which she said isnít good because the barn owner likely wonít care if something happens to the cat since it is meant to catch rodents. Today, Pardine said her, "wallet is getting very narrow," as the shelter costs several thousands of dollars to run. She is unsure of the future of the shelter because of lack of funding, but she asked, "what am I going to do with these animals?"

Although she has a love of animals in general, Pardine said she does what she can for the cats because she is partial to them. When cats are adopted, Pardine said she prefers that the cats are not declawed because, "itís not very kind." Also, she prefers that the cats be indoor pets so they are not meandering all over the place. The cats are not adopted until they are spayed and neutered.

Although cats are the primary animals at the shelter, Lorie Bates, who has been volunteering at the shelter for four years, said the shelter has accepted dogs in the past. Pardine said that she wanted another building for dogs, but because of the lack of funds, she has been unable to build anything. In the shelter, Pardine said there was a gift shop and boarding rooms, but "the expense has been overwhelming." But, Bates said, "you canít walk away." Pardine added that, "Its dedication, these feelings that you have to keep doing it."

Although people may not be able to volunteer or adopt, there are people who care. Just as Lauren Brand, a 10-year-old who asked her parents that the money that wouldíve been used for a birthday party, be used to purchase supplies for a no-kill shelter. Because of Brand's birthday wish, half a room in the shelter was filled with supplies. Aware of the catsí circumstances, Bates said Brand had tears in her eyes when she named two of the cats.

Pardine said it is important that people realize what needs to be done with the cats because, "you donít expedite things by just destroying the animals because the problem will come back." Bates said people need to realize what it takes, to care for a cat, because although people have good intentions when they feed stray cats, that cat then belongs to the person because they have become a provider for the animal. Pardine said, when someone feeds a cat, legally it belongs to the person because the food is an open invention to come back.

The shelter is always in need of: cat food, toys, treats and volunteers who will give their time for an hour a week to help with cleaning up after the cats. Bates said, "every little bit helps."

Pardine said cats, "really are marvelous creatures, they are very intelligent and very loving." Caring for the animals, she said is easy because they are independent and all that is needed is a litter box that needs to be kept clean, fresh water and clean beds.

"Spay and release," will start April 26 when there will be a spay van at the shelter, starting at 8:00a.m. People can bring their cat and it will cost $60 for a house cat to get a tattoo. The tattoo is similar to a dog tag. The cat will also get a distemper shot and a rabies shot. Pardine said the van is, "the only solution." The spay van is being sponsored by the Eastern Pennsylvania Animal Alliance, where a veterinarian and two vet technicians will spay and neuter the cats.

For information call (570)994-5846 or visit epaaonline.com.