Sea Bright, SPCA Consider Trap-Neuter- Return Program
By Ryan Fennell
SEA BRIGHT - With "kitten season" looming the Sea Bright Mayor and Council is considering entering into an agreement with the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to address the borough's feral cat population.
Representatives from the MCSPCA were on hand at Tuesday night's Borough Council meeting to present the Mayor and Council with the abridged version of the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) initiative.
"Trap Neuter Return is gaining momentum in towns, cities, and animal control depar tments around the country," said Kathy Schatzman Humane Educator for the MCSPCA.
Schatzman said that TNR is a more effective program that reduces the number of animals and complaints while more humane and less expensive than euthanasia.
"We do not want to euthanize the animals," Schatzman said.
As part of the TNR program the feral cats in Sea Bright would be assigned a caregiver, or cat colony manager. Every cat would be trapped, neutered and vaccinated, and then returned to its particular colony.
The SPCA would immediately put up for adoption kittens and cats that are evaluated as friendly and adoptable. Those that are returned would be micro-chipped for identification and "ear-tipped" on the left ear so they can be identified as having already been trapped and altered.
The feral cat colony managers would then monitor the cats that are in their colony by providing controlled feedings, trapping any newcomers, and collecting colony data to be submitted to the health department.
Schatzman said that there are several reasons why this approach is effective.
"It educates the community and enlists their involvement," Schatzman said. "This is a community issue. It immediately reduces the number of cats by removing kittens and friendly cats. TNR is endorsed by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services."
The program would be funded through grants as well as private funds and volunteer efforts with no direct cost to the borough.
Schatzman also offered reasons why it is more effective to return the cats to the colonies. "Feral cats cannot be adopted and there are not enough barns or other settings to relocate them to," she said.
Schatzman also offered what she called a 'vacuum effect' where by removing the entire population could lead to an increase in vermin or even an overabundance of new feral cats moving in to replace those that have been removed.
Schatzman also said that feeding the cats is important to keep them healthy.
"Unfed cats are bolder and sicker," she said.
"If implemented, TNR will absolutely reduce the feral cat population, reduce animal control costs, reduce nuisance calls, improve public health measures, lower the euthanasia rate, and educate the public allowing for community involvement."
According to Francesca Alexander, the MCSPCA's cat management specialist, the SPCA would first hold workshops for residents to let them know what the SPCA is doing in detail.
"We want to hear from the people who support and also from the naysayers," Alexander said.
She said that the SPCA would also want to host a free micro-chipping day for all of the owned cats in town.
"That way if one gets loose and ends up in one of our traps we can scan it and get it back to the proper home," said Alexander.
According to Alexander the SPCA hopes to have trapped, neutered and vaccinated, and returned all of the borough's feral cats within a few weeks of the council adopting an ordinance to allow for the institution of the initiative, but said that the timetable would be determined by the efficiency of the trappers and colony managers.
"I'd like to see New Jersey be a leader and make New Jersey a no-kill state," said MCSPCA Executive Director Lori Garrison. "In order to do that we have to implement TNR. We are looking for Sea Bright to be the model for this program."
According to Garrison 37,000 cats were euthanized in New Jersey last year and 1,500 were euthanized in Monmouth County.
"We want to stop that," Garrison said. "The plan is not to have feral cats around forever. The plan is in five to seven years through TNR and education there won't be feral cats." She used the example of when she was younger she would see stray dogs on a consistent basis and noted how that is no longer the case.
"My plan is to make that the same for cats," Garrison said. Councilwoman Dina Long outlined for the council the requirements that need to be included in an ordinance for TNR to be implemented in the borough.
According to Long owned cats would have to be neutered in order to roam the streets, barring unaltered cats from being allowed outdoors. It defines cat colonies but does not define where they are to be located. It specifies the MCSPCA as the programs sponsor.
"The sponsor would review and approve caregivers to the colony, help resolve complaints, maintain records, and report to the governing body annually," Long stated.
Caregivers would be required to register, take reasonable efforts to have the cats in their colony neutered and vaccinated and document the colony's health and numbers twice weekly. An ordinance is expected to appear on the agenda for introduction at the council's next meeting May 4.