While most people are on their way home at 6pm, work is usually not over for Laura Ann Meranda. Her next “shift” is just beginning as she gets calls for help from the public about abandoned cats – one might have wandered into someone’s home; another might be howling in distress up a 10m-tall tree.
This is the brutal 14- to 16-hour daily grind that Laura, who has a biomedical degree, signed up for after taking a 30 per cent pay cut from her previous deskbound job.
The 34-year-old executive director of the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) also fosters cats in her personal capacity and mentors independent caregivers.
Laura says of her near- 24/7 commitment: “I want to help the ‘voiceless’ and raise awareness about more humane ways of controlling the population of strays, using CWS’ sterilisation programmes. We also provide solutions to cat related disputes. This is about saving lives and giving the cats a new start.”
Prior to CWS, Laura spent several years working in a pathology lab, and a year in the disability sector with SG Enable.
Her responsibilities at CWS include creating national programmes to improve cat welfare, providing advice, and mediating cat-related issues on the ground. The society is the appointed third-party mediator for government agencies and town councils.
“I work closely with caregivers and volunteers islandwide to provide assistance on the ground on a day-to-day basis, too,” says Laura.
“We have had difficult situations where we endured verbal abuse from people when we offered solutions. Other times, we might spend up to a month gaining the trust of pet owners, to educate them to be more responsible and resolve their neighbours’ complaints,” she adds.
The satisfaction of seeing the lives of cats improve is what keeps her going. Laura, who began working at CWS in 2015 as a mediator, later became a senior mediator before spearheading the society’s initiatives two years ago.
She has seen several achievements at the helm: A total of 6,236 cats were sterilised last year, the highest number so far.
Culling numbers are at a low of 900 annually, down from 13,000 since the inception of CWS in 1999.