03/19/13 — Groups eye humane solution to feral cats

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Groups eye humane solution to feral cats

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 19, 2013 1:46 PM

Feral cats were not on the agenda Monday night, but they once again ended up dominating the early stages of the Goldsboro City Council meeting as a group of concerned citizens and animal activists from Raleigh converged to suggest an alternative to the criminalization of the feeding of the animals.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Hope Tyndall-Hancock, originally of Goldsboro but now the executive director of the SPCA of Wake County, explained that a better alternative to outlawing feeding the animals would be a "trap, spay/neuter, release" policy -- and she said, the best part is, there are groups and individuals ready to put such a plan into action.

"The truth is there are too many cats. There are too many free roaming cats. And they are a nuisance," she said.

But, Ms. Tyndall-Hancock explained, a feeding ban doesn't really address the problem -- and may not even get rid of the animals.

"You're not going to starve them. They're scavengers. They will find another food source," she said. "But if you trap them, spay and neuter them and release them, they will die out. The colonies will disappear."

Also speaking on behalf of the solution was Marie Brewer, a board member for Operation Catnip, an organization dedicated to humanely reducing the numbers of feral cats in Raleigh. She explained that the trap and release is just that -- volunteers bait and set traps for cats, take them to a clinic where they are spayed, neutered, vaccinated and have their ears docked for easy identification, and then take them back to release them. According to the group's website, www.operationcatnip.org, it's an effort that has been successfully under way in Raleigh since 1997.

She explained that while several of their volunteers come from Wayne County, they became involved in the local area after receiving a number of calls following the March 4 City Council meeting where the feeding ban was first discussed.

The goal, now, she said, is to organize the local volunteers and concerned residents and conduct a census of sorts of the existing cat populations.

"All of this has really come up in the last seven to 10 days. There are a lot of caring and concerned citizens," Ms. Brewer said. "We're just getting started."

And while the City Council did not promise to drop consideration of the feeding ban or to support the trap and release program, members were intrigued by the possibility of an alternative to the more punitive first suggestion.

In the meantime, Ms. Brewer told the council that if it did support her group's efforts, theirs would not just be an ad hoc program -- that they would be able to produce actual reports and statistics showing how well it's working.

"We know what we're doing," she said.

For people interested in learning more about Operation Catnip and how the trap and release program works, an informational meeting will be held on Thursday, April 4, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Herman Park Center. Also participating in the effort will be Independent Animal Rescue out of Durham. For more information, call 919-607-5306.