Pet Detectives

In the last two years, a formidable duo in our midst has been responsible for neutering and providing care for 120 feral cats and finding loving homes for 29 kittens. Through word of mouth, strays manage to find their way to Valerie Lagana and Judy Baker.

Published November 8, 2015 1:43 PM
3 min read

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Pet-detect-thIn the last two years, a formidable duo in our midst has been responsible for neutering and providing care for 120 feral cats and finding loving homes for 29 kittens. Through word of mouth, strays manage to find their way to Valerie Lagana and Judy Baker.

By Janice Llanes Fabry

PET-3184 2

In the last two years, a formidable duo in our midst has been responsible for neutering and providing care for 120 feral cats and finding loving homes for 29 kittens. Through word of mouth, strays manage to find their way to Valerie Lagana and Judy Baker.

As Rye resident Lagana likes to encapsulate with a popular quote, “Saving one cat will not change the world, but for that one cat, the world is forever changed.” Check this site about Ragdoll Cats here for example, they are beloved not only for its good looks but for its sweet and gentle temperament, too.

Lagana, who works in the family business at Rockridge Deli and Florist, started feeding cats that showed up at the deli’s lot. Afraid they’d continue multiplying, she turned to Pet Rescue’s trap-neuter-return (TNR) program, which she discovered through her sister-in-law, Brigit McGuigan. Trapping each cat with a humane box trap, Lagana transported them to the Larchmont shelter for neutering and medical care before bringing them back to their “home” outside Rockridge.

Around the same time in Harrison, Baker had discovered a mother cat and kittens that she, too, began feeding, in her backyard. Through a mutual friend, she enlisted the help of a neighborhood trapper whose compassionate reputation preceded her.

“That was the genesis of meeting Val,” recalled Baker. “Today, we have a symbiotic relationship and have become very good friends through this.”

Once Lagana taught Baker how to trap, they were off and rescuing. Accommodating each other’s busy schedules, Lagana provides pre- and post-care for feral cats and kittens, while Baker traps and transports them.

The non-profit Pet Rescue was founded in 1982. Made up of volunteers, the organization aids homeless and neglected cats and dogs by providing veterinarian services and compounded pet medication. The Larchmont facility has recently moved to Harrison, where they can accommodate cats and dogs under one roof.

PET 1815Cats are tested by the resident veterinarian for disease, such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, and administered distemper and rabies vaccines. They are neutered/spayed in order to prevent feral colonies from reproducing. To universally identify that a cat has gone through the TNR program, its left ear tip is clipped while still under anesthesia to safeguard them if ever re-trapped.

While kittens are placed in the foster care of volunteers to be socialized before placing them in permanent, safe homes, adult feral cats, on the other hand, cannot be domesticated. Hence, they are returned to their familiar surroundings.

A year ago, Rye resident Holly Malkasian Staudinger joined Lagana and Baker. She signed up for woodworking classes, and now makes outdoor shelters to protect these cats during the cold winter months.

The cat ladies have made quite an impact throughout Rye, Harrison, and most recently Port Chester. Baker keeps copious records of each rescue in a marble notebook, including dates, names, and formal medical records. Even those cats that have had to be put down or have died due to complications, 22 in the last two years, are well documented.

“They’re gone, but they’re not forgotten,” said Baker, whose eyes well up with tears along with Lagana’s.  

They encourage all animal lovers to volunteer, as there’s always a need for trappers and fostering families. “Anyone who loves cats can socialize kittens just by giving them attention,” noted Lagana. “Pet Rescue even schedules open houses just to give animals interaction.”

About what has become their mission, Baker said, “It really is a labor of love. When a kitten finds a good home, we’ve done our part.”

For more information or to volunteer, visit www.ny-petrescue.org.

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