GREENVILLE - The City of Greenville and the Darke County Humane Society will become project partners for community cats.
The Trap-Neuter-Return program has been proposed to Greenville Mayor Mike Bowers and City Service Director Curt Garrison, who said the humane society has the support of the city’s administration, who will be taking the proposal to the next city council meeting.
The Trap-Neuter-Return program ends reproduction, stabilizes colony populations and improves cats’ lives. The behaviors and stresses associated with mating — pregnancy, yowling, spraying and fighting — stop. And, there are no new litters of kittens.
The mission statement for the group is: To run a program of trap, neuter and return based on Alley Cat Allies program of humane treatment of cats. The objective is to promote humane treatment of stray and feral cats with managed feeding, control the population through managed colonies, community cooperation by those willing to promote the Alley Cat Allies program for co-existence of animals and humans.
Alley Cat Allies is the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats. An engine for social change, Alley Cat Allies was the first organization to introduce and advocate for humane methods of feral cat care, particularly Trap-Neuter-Return, in the American animal protection community. By establishing and promoting standards of care, this organization has brought humane treatment of cats into the national spotlight, now embraced by major cities and animal protection organizations coast to coast. In 20 short years, it has changed America to better understand and respect the lives of cats.
What is Trap-Neuter-Return? Trap means that it’s a humane (painless) trap of all the cats in a colony (a group of cats living outdoors together). The cats in their traps will be taken to a veterinarian or clinic to be neutered, vaccinated and ear-tipped (a universal symbol indicating they have been neutered), and then the cats will be returned to their original outdoor home.
Judy Francis, president of the Darke County Humane Society, is serving on a committee with Kay Callahan, Jana Deubner and Mike Pressnall that will head up this project.
This project is basically focused on the population of the feral cats, those that have returned to the wild. It is distinguished from a stray cat, which is a pet cat that has been lost or abandoned, while feral cats are born in the wild. The offspring of a stray cat can be considered feral if born in the wild.
“They are the cats who generally avoid people,” said Rhonda Penrod, a member of the humane society. “Their home is outdoors.”
In many parts of the world, feral cats are descendants of domestic cats that were left behind by travelers. Cats introduced into areas in which they are not indigenous often cause harm to local environments by preying on local species. This is particularly true on islands where feral cats have sometimes had a substantial and deleterious effect on the local fauna
“By spaying and neutering cats, you are getting rid of a lot of problems,” Francis said. “You need these cats, though, to control the rodent population.”
She said there is nothing in place right now in the county that can stop this feral cat problem/situation.
“The laws and ordinances don’t work,” Francis said. “The laws are making people criminals because they’re feeding these cats.”
The project is going to take money, and the committee will be looking for the funds to come from community donations, grants that will be applied for and corporate contributions. It is planned to solicit low-cost or donated spay/neuter and shots from local veterinarians; assistance from hardware stores to get donated traps or at a lower price; other stores for donated or low-cost supplies; and local feed for the animals as projected ways to start the program.
“We have a team researching for grants,” Francis said.
Open meetings will be held at PAWS Bingo Hall on Martin Street in the upcoming future to sign up volunteers to help with the work. Those interested in helping volunteer for the project as well as elected officials are invited to attend these meetings. The Daily Advocate will announce the meetings once they’re set.
“If you love cats and wish to help protect feral cats, we need you,” Francis said. “If you have nuisance behavior from feral cats and want help with that, we have answers. It will be beneficial for you to come. We want everybody who can to come.”
She went on, “We are looking for cooperation from all communities in Darke County. The more communities we have, the easier to get money and funding for it. Plans are to expand this to the county as a whole.”
Volunteers will be shown a DVD on how to use the Alley Cat Allies program. They will learn about assessing the cats and their environment; preparing for special scenarios; establishing feeding schedules; finding and coordinating with a feral-friendly veterinarian or clinic; setting up holding/recovery areas; assembling a trapping kit; preparing equipment; making spaying and neutering appointments; trapping the animals; and post-surgery.
“The vacuum effect is important,” Francis said. “This is the way to do it, not trap and kill. We put them in managed colonies.”
Once it gets underway, the Trap-Neuter-Return will be a continuing process.
“We will never get all of them, but the problems with reproduction will decrease,” she said.
“The current process we have to combat the problem is ineffective,” said the city service director, “If folks are feeding a stray animal or rodent animal, it falls under our nuisance order. We have some folks who are sympathetic to animals in cold water and are feeding them and attracting other [unwanted] animals.”
The proposal, he said, is two-fold.
“It is educating folks to help citizens who don’t want those animals in their community by letting them know there are products folk can buy to sprinkle around their yards to keep unwanted animals way. And, hopefully it will control the population and release the cats back into their natural habitat,” Garrison said. “They [volunteers] will be soliciting the community for support. There will be a lot of community effort involved, in a door-to-door effort to educate our neighbors. It will be a win-win situation for every one of us.”
Those wanting more information, can go to www.alleycat.org. Those who would like to be a volunteer for the Trap-Neuter-Return can call the humane society at 548-1009.