When the Durham Correctional Center shut down last week and its inmates shuttled off to other facilities, Runt, Bobo, Twinkletoes and Smokey once again faced an uncertain future.
Those last four inhabitants - all feline - were treated as pets by inmates and officers, who worried about what would happen to the cats with the prison closed.
So prison officials called the same group that had saved the cats' lives more than a year earlier.
Tia Hagnas, founder of Alley Cats and Angels, a nonprofit rescue group in Raleigh, was contacted by a security officer in May 2010 asking for help with a friendly mama cat and kittens. When the officer mentioned that there also were feral cats on-site, Hagnas promised to help those, too.
Feral cats are typically captured and killed by animal control officers - a method Hagnas says would upset the inmates, who had bonded with the cats. Her mission was to fix the feral cat problem at the prison using a method endorsed by cat rescue groups nationally - Trap-Neuter-Return. Hagnas says trapping and neutering the felines, then returning them to the trapping spot, works best because cats can no longer multiply exponentially. But the practice is illegal in Durham and Wake counties because the "return" is technically considered animal abandonment.
Alley Cats and Angels is working with other local groups - including SAFE Haven for Cats and the Wake's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals - to get those ordinances changed.
Read the complete story, and see a lovely cat photo at newsobserver.com