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Tiger Rescue Team Is Taking Care of This School's Cat Colony
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By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 31, 2024

A posterboard promoting the Tiger Recue Team project at Edison High School. (GV Wire/Nancy Price)

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When a colony of cats took up residence underneath a portable classroom at Edison High School, teachers and students banded together to come up with alternatives to trapping and removal — and sometimes extermination.

The result was the Tiger Rescue Team, whose work at creating a sanctuary for the school’s cat colony won recognition in civics awards for individual student and the project itself.

Edison teacher Jacquelyn Fargano and other members of the Tiger Rescue Team recently told the Fresno Unified School Board about their efforts to find more humane solutions to care for cat colonies, which Fargano maintains are protected under the state law that forbids cruelty to animals.

In conjunction with the Fresno T.N.R. nonprofit, the Edison kitties have been captured, neutered or spayed, and then returned to their colony now residing under a portable at the southwest Fresno high school. Animal experts agree that doing so will help decrease cat populations, and having an established colony decreases the likelihood of other cats taking up residence there.

Tiger Rescue Team has proposed creating two screened sanctuaries on an open space next to the portable. Inside will be prefab kitty “condos” and safe feeding areas. As of now the cats are fed from bowls along one side of the portable, leaving them vulnerable to attack by dogs or other predators.

Kitty condos and a feeding station sit inside a portable classroom at Edison High, awaiting a move to an outdoors sanctuary. (GV Wire/Nancy Price)

School district officials and the Tiger Rescue Team are holding discussions about the possibility of installing the “catio” structures.

Raising Money and Awareness

The Tiger Rescue Team has started up a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe to build the sanctuaries and pay for food and spaying/neutering. As of Friday morning the campaign had raised $375. The Tiger Rescue Team also did a small fundraiser through ArtHop, but those funds have nearly been exhausted already, said Fargano, one of the team’s teacher leaders.

After hearing their presentation at the School Board meeting, Trustee Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas offered to write a $700 check to help pay for one sanctuary, once school officials give their OK for it.

“I love animals — cats more specifically,” she told GV Wire. “And I do think we need to be partnering with these groups and I applaud the kids and teachers that have stepped up to care for these kitties.”

Fargano said she hopes the students’ efforts at Edison might inspire students at other schools to take similar actions. The projects are not only community-spirited but also educational, so they are win-win, she said.

The Edison project was one of 16 recently acknowledged at the Civic Education Center’s Fresno County Youth Showcase. And four Edison seniors involved in the project were awarded the state Seal of Civic Engagement that will be affixed to their diplomas, said teacher Lauren Lawless, another of the Tiger Rescue Team teacher leaders.

In addition to teaching about compassion and civic involvement, Tiger Rescue Team students have the opportunity to study animal behavior, Fargano said.

Finding Humane Solutions

Those educational efforts also extend to the district’s contract with a pest exterminating company to remove campus cats.

Doing so is not only illegal but opens up the area for new cats to take up residence, Fargano said. Once a colony is established, and its members spayed or neutered, other cats are less likely to try to move in, she said.

Fargano said she heard that when staff at one school saw that a kitten had been left in a trap, they freed it and sought an adoptive home.

District spokeswoman Nikki Henry said the contractor, Eagle Shield, is placing trail cameras in their traps to ensure that the animals are retrieved “in a timely manner.”

Eagle Shield, is partnering with the Fresno Humane Society to spay and neuter feral cats trapped on campuses, Henry said. The cats are then released “back into the city,” she said.

FUSD’s annual contract with Eagle Shield for all extermination services is $265,392, Henry said.

Protecting Cat Colony

Tiger Rescue Team’s efforts also include making sure the cats are protected from neighborhood dogs that have been targeting the Edison campus, posing a threat whether the cats are under the portable or in a screened sanctuary that’s out in the open.

“I know that dogs will go wherever a dog needs to go to get food. It’s through a fence, under a plant, through the sanctuary. They’re very vulnerable in that position,” Fargano said. “We need the location. We’re going to get that. We need the sanctuaries. We’re going to get that. But moving them until the dog situation is in somewhat control is very problematic.”

The solution may be putting up “gopher” fencing around the sanctuaries to prevent the dogs from digging underneath and then getting to the cats’ food, and to the cats.

“We are bleeding financially in regards to what we need to do,” Fargano said. “Because, again, it’s not just the cats we’re feeding. We’re feeding the neighborhood dogs. It’s just amped up incredibly financially. But to get them (cats) fed, I’ve got to feed the dogs too.”

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Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

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