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HSVMA Announces ‘Best Friend to Feral Cats’ Award Winners

Dr. Laura Gay Senk, Dr. Sara White and Mike Phillips, LVT, recognized for helping feral cats

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association has selected three outstanding veterinary professionals as recipients of the 'Best Friend to Feral Cats' award for their significant contributions in helping feral cats in their communities. Award recipients are Dr. Laura Gay Senk of Farmingdale, New York, in the private practitioner category; Dr. Sara White of Hartland, Vermont, in the nonprofit category; and licensed veterinary technician Mike Phillips of New York, New York, in the veterinary technician category.

The three recipients were selected from a nationwide pool of more than 100 nominees for the inaugural HSVMA award. The judging panel included HSVMA Leadership Council members Dr. Richard Bachman and Dr. Madeline Graham, HSVMA veterinary consultant Dr. Susan Krebsbach, and registered veterinary technician Nancy Peterson, Cat Programs manager with The Humane Society of the United States.

"It was difficult to select winners from among so many dedicated individuals," said Dr. Bachman, who specializes in shelter medicine and is continually exposed to the impact of feral cats in California shelters. "But these three veterinary professionals have truly gone above and beyond the call of duty in addressing feral cat overpopulation, as well as working to improve the quality of life for feral cats in their communities."

There are an estimated 50 million feral cats in the United States living in groups known as colonies. Dedicated individuals and organizations practice a non-lethal strategy known as Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) to reduce their numbers and improve the health and safety of cats and communities. With TNR, cats no longer reproduce and nuisance behaviors are reduced or eliminated. Without TNR, the majority of feral kittens do not survive to adulthood, and almost 100 percent of the feral cats brought to shelters are euthanized because they cannot be adopted as pets. 

Dr. Laura Gay Senk has been helping feral cats on Long Island, New York, for approximately 20 years. She was one of the first veterinarians in the area to operate a clinic that advertised, "Ferals Welcomed." Today, she runs a clinic in Farmingdale, New York, which offers low-cost spay and neuter and medical care to feral and other rescue cats. Dr. Senk has volunteered for monthly feral cat clinics and mass TNR events on Long Island for many years. She also created the Long Island Cat Project, which provides resources and assistance to feral cat caretakers and veterinarians working with feral cats. She also has worked with several municipalities on Long Island to implement TNR programs.

Dr. Sara White started Spay ASAP, a nonprofit mobile spay/neuter clinic, in 2006. Since that time, she has spayed and neutered more than 13,500 cats in Vermont and New Hampshire, many of whom were feral. Dr. White also obtained grant funding and coordinates the Vermont Humane Federation's feral cat program, that will provide free spay and neuter for 2,000 feral cats during the next two years at several clinic locations throughout the state.

Mike Phillips is a licensed veterinary technician and founder and president of the Urban Cat League, a feral cat organization based in the notorious Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. He volunteers his time coordinating TNR of feral cats in this area, as well as assisting at spay and neuter clinics for feral cats in New York and New Jersey. Additionally, Mr. Phillips is considered an expert in socializing feral kittens and instructs workshops on this subject in several states. He also offers advice on socializing feral kittens and trapping through his blog at socialferals.blogspot.com. 

The HSVMA thanks all veterinary professionals who help feral cats and encourages their colleagues to assist in this important life-saving work. For more information, visit hsvma.org and humanesociety.org/feralcats.  


The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) was formed as a home for veterinary professionals who want to join together to speak out for animals, engage in direct care programs for animals in need, and educate the public and others in the profession about animal welfare issues. The HSVMA is an affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States.