Jan 12, 2014

Humane Society program could help control feral cat problem

BY RYAN BERRY
MANAGING EDITOR
GREENVILLE – There isn’t a definite figure available on the number of feral cats roaming the streets of Greenville and every village in the county, but it doesn’t take a person long to realize there is an over abundance of cats in every community. Some have called for the extermination of feral cats in their community, but the Darke County Humane Society (DCHS) reminds residents it is illegal and does little to control the population. Once a colony of cats is wiped out, a new colony will emerge to reap the benefits the previous colony enjoyed. Judy Francis, director of DCHS, also pointed out these cats serve a purpose by helping control the rodent population.

Through Alley Cat Allies, the Humane Society has found a program that has already been successful across the United States and in a few areas around the county. Francis said, “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The wheel has already been invented.” The Alley Cat Allies program will humanely trap, neuter and return cats. This program will not only determine the current cat population, but help monitor and control the population for years to come. The cats are not removed from their current location, but through this program the size of the colony is stabilized and over a period of time the colony can be reduced due to reduced breeding. According to Francis, the life expectancy of a feral cat is anywhere from 3-7 years.

Francis said neutered cats create fewer problems for nearby residents. Neutered cats no longer compete, fight, spray or roam and females will stop yowling and producing kittens. Plus, DCHS volunteers also plan on educating residents in the affected area on how they can reduce the chance of finding stray and feral cats in their yard.

While many believe cats are solitary animals, Francis disagrees and noted these animals live in colonies – no different than a pride of lions. These colonies can range anywhere from three to 30 or more cats. If the cats continue to mate the colony will continue to grow. One male and one female cat can produce a million cats over a 10-year period.

Francis does not encourage residents to feed strays, but noted ordinances banning the practice do nothing to control or reduce the colony. “All it does is makes criminals out of little old ladies.”

While some governments might balk thinking the price would be too high, DCHS believes it will fit great into their budget because it won’t cost them anything. The organization will be seeking grants and donations from individuals and businesses, and reduced costs for services to pay for the program. The only catch is the local government must show support for the program in order to get grants.

Curt Garrison, safety/service director for the City of Greenville, said the city’s administration will support the Humane Society’s efforts. He pointed out Greenville is one of the cities that have an ordinance making it illegal to feed stray cats. “It is the only tool the city has to combat the feral cat population,” he said.

A recent complaint to the city regarding feral cats opened the door for officials from DCHS to meet with them. According to Garrison, the city sent out a notice of the ordinance to a person accused of feeding stray cats. That person took the notice to the Humane Society giving Francis an opportunity to share the trap, neuter and return program with the city.

Garrison and Francis agree it will take a community-wide effort to make this program work. DCHS will not only be seeking donations, but they will also need volunteers county-wide. These volunteers will be used to help with the trapping and returning part of the program, educating residents and watching the colony. Once a colony has been altered by the trap, neuter and return program, volunteers will need to keep an eye on the cats to see if there are new arrivals. One of the biggest problems DCHS faces is with persons abandoning their animals. When these abandoned animals become part of the colony, volunteers will have to trap, neuter and return the newcomers.

DCHS recently asked the Darke County Commissioners for support and plans to meet with mayors from each of the villages.

If you would like to volunteer, report a colony of feral cats in your neighborhood or want more information on the trap, neuter and release program, contact Francis or one of the members of the committee – Kate Callahan, Jana Deubner or Mike Pressnall, 548-1009.

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