W hether the city is comprised of cat lovers, dog lovers or those who prefer humans, smart resource allocation is something everyone can get behind, SPCA officials said.
SPCA Executive Director Whitney Holt pitched a trap, neuter and return program Monday to Lake Jackson City Council, as she did Feb. 13 to Clute City Council. She plans to do the same for Freeport in the future.
Trap, neuter and return, or TNR, helps reduce the feral cat population and animal shelter intake by trapping cats that are already established in a specific area, sterilizing them and returning them to the same location, Holt said.
Current ordinances prohibit anyone from releasing animals within city limits, so an ordinance change would be required if city leaders choose to facilitate the program.
“We just want to be realistic that cats that are running around in the community are still breeding,” Holt said. “These are cats that aren’t causing problems. These are cats that are existing and everyone is kind of overlooking them.”
While the cats are not bothering anyone, they often reproduce and their kittens are brought into the SPCA, she said.
Because of a successful, ongoing transfer program, the SPCA currently has one of its lowest cat populations with about 80, Holt said. In the past, the shelter has had almost 400 cats, she said.
When “kitten season” — from about April to June — begins, the shelter typically receives 30 to 40 cats every day, Holt said.
A TNR program would not be noticeable in the short-term, but would vastly decrease the number of cats brought into the shelter in the next five to 10 years, she said.
Under the program, a group of volunteers would trap the cats, and the SPCA would facilitate sterilization, vaccination and removal of the tip of an ear so the fixed cats are easily recognizable, according to the presentation. To qualify for the program, cats would have to be full weight and healthy, so they are able to hunt and defend themselves when released, the presentation states.
The cost would be minimal and break even in the short term, Holt said, adding it costs about $14 to feed a cat for 10 days, $5 to $10 to euthanize a cat and $13 to 18 to sterilize one. The SPCA has an in-house clinic that can spay or neuter the animals.
As the program continues, it would save money, Holt said.
There are several misconceptions about TNR programs, she said. It would not change the responsibility of animal control officers — meaning cats causing a nuisance would still be handled the way they are now — or increase the cat population, she said.
It’s about being proactive, Holt said.
This is a program that would need community involvement to be successful, Councilman Gerald Roznovsky said.
There are already some “underground” TNR participants, so this would be an opportunity to streamline those advocates, Holt said.
This is something many people likely would get behind, Mayor Bob Sipple said.