Cat Network claws onto USG

Originally published April 3, 2011

Steph Park puts her love of all things furry to use through the Stony Brook Cat Network, the “unofficial pre-vet society” at Stony Brook University—but this outlet might not last much longer.

When the Undergraduate Student Government slashed budgets at the end of last spring, the Cat Network, along with many other student organizations, lost the majority of their finances. But Park refuses to go down without a fight. Determined to strengthen her chances to get into a good pre-veterinary program, Park appealed USG’s decision and co-founded the Pre-Vet Society that officially started in the fall of 2010.

“I was looking for an outlet to be near animals,” the 20-year-old psychology major said. Her dedication took her to the top of the Cat Network quickly and after one year as an active member, she became president.

According to the 2010-2011 budget, USG cut funds in all categories of student involvement—from Men’s Rugby to the Uniti Cultural Center and many organizations in between. In the last year, USG cut the Cat Network’s budget from $4,000 to $1,000.

Park said the cut was based on a misunderstanding between the two organizations. The Network had their annual budget hearing on Monday, March 14. If funds do not increase, Park plans on trying to contact USG again.

“I want to try to negotiate,” she said. The Network would use the funding not only to care for the cats on campus, but also provide “more opportunities for students—to take rides to shelters or work with the vet. We’re also trying to implement student-oriented events.”

Concerns from USG revolved around the fact that the money was benefitting cats, not students.

“It was a surprise when they showed up [to the budget committee hearing] with ten people plus the adviser,” said Allen Abraham, a USG Budget Committee member. “Usually only the president and treasurer show up, so it definitely showed that they had a lot of support.”

The decision will be announced by the end of the academic year.

Park originally entered Stony Brook as a double major in psychology and art, but now is on the pre-veterinary track.

“When I don’t get to see and spend time with animals, I go stir crazy in my room,” Park said. “Once I saw that was my reaction to not being around animals, I knew [the veterinary track] was what I was looking for.”

She got involved with the SBU Cat Network when she learned there wasn’t a pre-vet society on campus. Last semester, after settling into her leadership role within the Cat Network, she co-founded the Stony Brook Pre-Vet Society, last semester.

“[Being a veterinarian] someday will give me a way to interact with people and animals in a medical setting,” Park said. “I don’t think I could interact with only people.”

In past years, the university has had a pre-vet organization, but it never became a self-sustaining campus club. As of right now, the society has between 20 to 30 members. Park hopes to eventually have programs with the Pre-Vet Society and SBU Cat Network.

The Cat Network traps, neuters and releases the cats on campus in order to “humanely lower the stray population.” There are between 30 and 35 feeding stations can on campus, usually embedded in secluded wooden areas. Cats are trapped and taken to the Setauket Animal Hospital where they are given basic shots and neutered. Before being released back on campus campus, the cats are earmarked for the Network’s records.

The care for each cat costs $100 up front, and since finding and trapping the cats cannot be predicted, the Network ran into issues with their funding from USG. According to Park, the Cat Network’s adviser and Stony Brook professor, Nancy Franklin, would take the cats to the hospital after it was trapped and paid the fees. Reimbursements from USG involved a significant amount of time, which became frustrating.

The Cat Network is currently involved in two contests to receive off-campus funding. Through petfinder.org, the club entered the “Shelter Challenge,” a contest in which browsers vote for the organization they wish to receive the grant money. Last semester, SBU Cat Network won a $1,000 prize this year and $2,000 last year.

Regardless of USG’s decision, funding will not stop Park’s ultimate goal to become a veterinarian. She has two Yorkshire terrier dogs at home, Spanky and Bangwol,which is Korean for “droplet,” and a calico cat named Pippi.

Park’s friends say that she does have cat-like qualities, but she laughed as she confessed, “I’m actually more of a dog person.”

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