We exceeded our hoped-for amount of 20 cats today by bringing in 21 cats to the PAWS-Chicago spay/neuter clinic; 20 ferals and one 'friendly feral'.
I hope I can give you some flavor of everything that has to happen in order to process this many cats in one day - it's a real logistical exercise. First, we have to negotiate slots of this size with the PAWS-Chicago clinic; their policy is to allow up to 10 ferals to be brought in without an appointment. When we wish to exceed that limit by a significant amount (as we did today), it only makes sense to get their approval beforehand. Their clinic did 15,000+ spay/neuter surgeries last year (and will probably exceed that this year), so they have to schedule their time and resources carefully too. Once we have a slot like this approved, we put out the word to the trappers that this date is open for us. This is complicated too as we have many more ferals out there than we can handle at one time; we have to balance the number of cats we bring in against the needs of the individual caretakers. And then, of course, we have to hope that most or all of the cats we expect actually show up. The weather can get in the way, the caretakers can have problems trapping the cats, etc. Then the cats have to be brought to our 'central location'. Someone has to be there to receive the cats, ensure that they are in a proper size trap or carrier, check to make sure that they are not already ear-tipped, see if they have any health issues, etc., etc., etc.
At this point, the 'transport team' gets involved. For a load of cats this size, this requires that we borrow a van from one of our volunteers, there is just no way that we can fit 20+ cats into the back of a car or SUV, etc. The van has to be picked up the night before so that it can be at the 'central location' by 6:00am the next morning. At 6:00am, the transport team arrives at the 'central location' and loads the cats into the van. Oh, and I forgot to mention that our coordinator has to prepare the paperwork ahead of time for us to bring to PAWS, give us the micro-chips (we provide our own as we can get them from Avid cheaper than if we buy the from PAWS) and give us either the Feral Fixers checkbook (if one of our authorized signers is making the trip that day) or pre-purchased Vouchers to pay for the surgeries. This paperwork is also faxed to PAWS so that they can get a head-start on entering the data for the day's spay/neuter surgeries into the PAWS computer system.
Once we're loaded up (with cats, micro-chips and paperwork), we head off to PAWS. Depending on the traffic, day of the week and weather conditions, this takes us from 45 minutes to an hour so we usually arrive around 7:00am. We sign in, bring the cats into the clinic, and then wait for our turn. This usually takes from 30-60 minutes - the PAWS clinic is ALWAYS busy. Once we're called, the PAWS personnel checking us in create all of the check-in documents. This can take 10-15 minutes for a large number of cats such as the ones brought in today. If we bring in any 'Friendly ferals' (as we did today), we need to further wait so that a vet can examine the 'Friendly'. Once that is done, then we can leave. Today, for example, we arrived at the clinic at 7:00am and left a bit before 9:30am.
We return to the clinic between 5:00 and 5:30. If the place is busy (as was the case today - there was another team from Triple R Pets which had brought in 25 cats, plus several other "onesies and twosies" ferals brought in) it can take more than an hour to get our cats, double-check the paperwork, load the cats into the van, and finally leave. Today, for example, we arrived at the clinic about 5:10pm and didn't leave there until a little after 6:30pm.
The cats are then driven to our 'central location' and dropped off (along with all of the paperwork). The coordinator has already been busy either arranging for the colony caretakers to come and pick up their cats or else arranging a drop-off schedule. The van is dropped off at the volunteer's house who loaned it to us (after first cleaning it out and filling it up with gas) and we can finally call it a day.
So, lots of work, lots of coordination, but rewarding and necessary. With today's 21 cats, this makes 68 cats we have had spay/neutered this year and a total of 681 since the inception of Feral Fixers.
The picture is of the 21 cats we brought in to PAWS today, stacked up just outside the clinic door. Immediately after I took this picture, we took the cats inside. If you click on the picture, you will see a larger version of it.