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The Suburbanite
  • Feral cat program being explored in Canton

  • More than 50 people attended a meeting Wednesday night to learn about plans to establish a program designed to stabilize and reduce the feral cat population in Canton. Concerns with the city’s animal control program spurred the meeting. Meanwhile, some City Council members would like to launch a committee to explore an alternative to euthanizing feral cats.

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  • Unlike recent City Council meetings, the tone at Wednesday’s public gathering to discuss ways to stabilize and reduce the city’s feral cat population was not adversarial.
    More than 50 people met at the Stark County District Library to sign up volunteers and discuss forming a program that would trap, spay or neuter and return feral cats to their territories in Canton. The cats also would be vaccinated.
    Volunteers also would provide food and water for the cats.
    Jeff Dorson, executive director of the Humane Society of Louisiana, helped head the meeting. Dorson, who also is affiliated with Alley Cat Allies, said that volunteers are key to making the program a reality. That won’t happen immediately, he noted. First, an advisory council of six to eight members will be formed to head the effort and supervise the volunteers.
    The program must be operated in conjunction with City Council stopping the trapping and euthanizing of cats through its animal-control program, Dorson said.
    Dorson and Toby Franks, who operates a Trap-Neuter-Return program in the Canton area, are hopeful the city will redirect money used to trap cats to a TNR program.
    Grants also may be available to the city. A TNR program would be a “win-win situation for the community and the cats,” Franks said.
    Some council members are taking steps to create a committee to study the animal-control issue and TNR.
    One of a Kind Pets, a spay-and-neuter clinic in Akron, would offer the city a discounted rate of about $30 to spay or neuter and vaccinate a feral cat.
    A “humane box trap” is used to capture feral cats, Franks said.
    “We never leave traps unattended,” he said. A kitten also would not be separated from its mother, Franks said.
    Cats are returned to the precise area where they were found. “You’re not releasing cats just kind of haphazardly in neighborhoods,” Franks said.
    Councilman Thomas West, D-2, said that some residents may not want feral cats returned to the neighborhood. Franks said that the vast majority of neighbors usually want the cats returned, and some help monitor the animals.
    Neutering or spaying feral cats eliminates nuisance problems such as yowling and marking, Franks said.
    TNR is a “long-term approach to (cat) population control,” he said.
    Alley Cat Allies would assist with Canton’s TNR program long-term, Dorson said.
    With the help of volunteers, “we will get something done,” he said. “It will not be the same city.”
    ANIMAL CONTROL PROGRAM
    Animal advocates have criticized the city because many of the cats trapped by the animal-control officer are taken to the Stark County Humane Society and euthanized, due to the cats being feral or severely ill and not responding to treatment.
    Page 2 of 2 - Attending Wednesday’s meeting were Councilwoman Mary Cirelli, D-at large, and Councilmen Thomas West, D-2, and Frank Morris, D-9.
    West said he wants to find out how we can “address the cats in a positive way so it’s a benefit to the community.”
    CITY COUNCIL
    Other concerns were discussed about the proposed TNR program, including a city ordinance regarding the feeding of cats outdoors.
    Morris said that more than half of the animals trapped by Philip Sedlacko, the animal-control officer, are cats.
    Morris said the proposed city-initiated committee would analyze the cost of operating a TNR program to determine if it would save the city money compared to its current animal control program.
    The committee also would research public health issues associated with cats, he said. A pilot TNR program could operate in Ward 9, he said.