On Tuesday, after much previous discussion, Wake County commissioners adopted a Trap-Neuter-Release policy to help curb the euthanasia rate of feral cats. The policy allows privately-funded, non-profit groups to trap, neuter and release feral cats.
Between summer 2010 and 2011, the county-run animal shelter took in 7,766 cats. Of those, 4,830 cats were euthanized, according to county data. That number includes all of the roughly 2,900 feral cats that were taken in, since they are deemed unadoptable, according to information presented to county commissioners.
The current policy of euthanizing cats has not reduced the number of calls regarding feral cats to county animal control, county staff reports, which has lead to the search for new options.
But the new law will not do away with the euthanizing of feral cats entirely. The previous option to call the county to pick up feral cats will still be available to residents.
Cats picked up by the county are euthanized three days after entering the shelter. Essentially, the decision to euthanize will be left to private citizens who either decide to call a non-profit TNR group or county animal control.
Residents who call animal control will be informed of the option to call a TNR group.
“Thank you for passing this,” Lisa Kroll, associate director of the SPCA, told the county commission. “We know this is only the beginning. We know this will make Wake County a more humane community.”
Cats returned to the “wild” will have one ear clipped. The county will not be able to trap such cats simply for roaming at-large. People can report the clipped-ear feral cats as nuisances and the county can still trap them for euthanasia.
However, the county will contact the TNR group to attempt to find a resolution, the new policy states.
Cats that are trapped by TNR groups will also be vaccinated for rabies.
The major downside to the plan discussed during the law’s fine-tuning was public health. Aside from rabies, feral cats can expose people to salmonella and parasites and a bite or scratch can cause tetanus or cat scratch disease.
Nonetheless advocates hail the new law as a victory and the county commission unanimously supported its approval.
Moreover, county staff believe that, unlike euthanasia, TNR will reduce the population of feral cats overtime.
County staff will monitor how the program progresses and report to back the commission in three years.