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Elise Hardacre, 15, is not your ordinary high school student. It’s rare to see someone her age tackle as big a problem as the explosion of the feral cat population in College Park.
After seeing many cats developing deformities and even getting hurt by having kittens while so young, Hardacre decided there was something she could do to help with the problem. She has had great success with her mission.
“So far I have gotten 22 cats spayed/neutered,” she said, “and we are working on taking in two more in the next week or so.”
Not everyone in the neighborhood understands why Hardacre is going to such lengths to spay and neuter stray cats.
“The biggest challenge has to be getting some of the neighbors to understand,” she said. “Most people around here will call them a nuisance or say that they just want animal services to come and take them all away.”
Hardacre has also experienced neighbors releasing cats from the traps.
“This is why I’m trying to spread the word more, so people will see and hopefully not be so quick to judge about what I’m trying to accomplish.”
Having a cat spayed or neutered is not a simple task, says Hardacre. “It is easy to set the traps and figure out where to put them. The difficult part starts with sitting around to wait for them, since some of them are smart enough not to go in the trap. Then comes along getting them back to my house and getting them ready to go to get them fixed. Then [there is] the aftercare.”
The cost of the surgery is an obstacle as well. According to Hardacre, Orange County’s animal shelter charges no fee to spay or neuter up to five cats per household, but each additional cat costs $20. Other organizations’ fees vary.
Hardacre feels the stray cats get a bad rap. She understands some of the frustrations, but encourages folks to look at the cats in a new light.
“Lots of people do not enjoy cats or think they are annoying or whatever the case may be,” she said. “The ones down my street especially may be disliked … they have been here for so long. They may walk through your yard or lay in your driveway. The thing is, most of them are very friendly. I see cars drive down past them normally with little kids and they’ll look out the windows and try to spot out as many cats as they can find. It’s a nice thing to see.”
Hardacre’s entire family supports her 100 percent, but she gives high praise to her mom, Kathy Hardacre, for going that extra mile: “She is the one who drives the cats to get fixed and fills out the forms. I have to give her credit. It’s like our little team.”
Hardacre has four cats of her own, all adopted, and takes care of four others that hang out around her house. But it’s not just the cats she cares about; she believes in giving back to her community.
“I believe that you can make an impact by doing even the smallest of things. For me it’s nice having something to do that’s right here in my neighborhood that can make a change. The people that live around here appreciate it a lot,” she said.
When asked about local support, she shared that many have reached out after she posted a GoFundMe account on social media. “Lots of people have stepped forward to donate money to help fix and take care of these animals. There are [also] some that help with trapping and after care of the cats, which definitely makes a difference.”
Elise Hardacre is a high school freshman who loves photography and water sports. She hopes to someday turn her efforts into a nonprofit organization and hopes to find a college scholarship related to what she has worked so hard to accomplish.
If you would like to support the effort to sterilize stray cats in College Park, please visit www.gofundme.com/collegeparklocal for more information or to donate.