110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Hatfield
posted Mar 4, 2011 - 8:51:33am
In an effort to curb the growth of the stray-animal population and reduce the number of animals euthanized every year, the Volusia County Council in 2008 approved an ordinance requiring most dogs and cats in Volusia County to be spayed or neutered.
That ordinance covers dogs and cats owned by people.
What about the huge and growing population of stray cats?
To deal with them, the County Council is moving in a direction many animal advocates have urged for years: trap-neuter-release.
The board, composed of community members, makes recommendations to the Volusia County Council for changes in ordinances and other matters related to animal control.
The meeting is open to the public. For accommodation for people with disabilities, or for more information, contact Shari Williams at 386-323-3522, ext. 1211.
Catching and neutering stray cats puts the brakes on continual breeding. Returning them to their colonies eliminates the need to find them homes. Cat rescuers and Humane Society groups agree there are just not enough people willing to take them as pets.
County Animal Control Services Director Becky Wilson reported on trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs at the Feb. 17 meeting of the Volusia County Council. She told council members she has looked at TNR programs around Florida, and said they seem to work.
Some programs are run by local governments and some by not-for-profit groups that respond to all cat complaints. In Orange County, a program run by a nonprofit saves the county $70 in response costs per call. Even though the human population of Orange County has grown in recent years, the number of cats euthanized there has declined.
Wilson also spoke about a citizen-run program in Ormond Beach that is supervised by Ormond Beach Animal Control. Feral cats — 400 of them — were overrunning the area around Oceanside Golf & Country Club when Ormond Beach began a TNR program in 2003.
“Citizens have taken this program over,” Wilson said.
More than half of the cat population, including sick cats, was euthanized, and the others were neutered. The cat colony now has around 100 members, living peacefully around the country club and generating few complaints.
An Oct. 8, 2007, Beacon news story, “Country-club life for feral cats,” detailed the genesis and success of the Ormond Beach program.
Wilson said it’s hard to determine the exact size of Volusia County’s free-roaming cat population.
Using a formula from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, the population could be 80,000 or higher.
In the years 2008-10, animal-control agencies picked up 32,074 cats in Volusia County; of those, 27,438, or 83 percent, were euthanized.
Wilson asked for permission to explore setting up a TNR program. She said she planned to work with humane societies, local veterinarians and nonprofit animal organizations.
“So many people are so passionate about it,” Council Member Andy Kelly said.
Kelly noted local veterinarians have offered to donate a day a month for such a program. Issues of liability and facilities would have to be worked out.
Council Member Carl Persis moved to authorize Wilson to move forward, and asked her to identify a nonprofit group to serve as the lead agency to deal with feral cats. His motion received unanimous support from the County Council.
Wilson told The Beacon the TNR effort will not be a county or county-run program. It will be strictly a citizen effort, led by a nonprofit group. That way, questions of jurisdiction and boundaries will not be an issue, she said.
Wilson thinks the plan will gain the support of local animal activists.
“It sounds wonderful,” Ramona Whaley said. Whaley has been a guardian of feral cats in DeLand’s Garden District for years.
Volusia County has stepped forward to be a leader in TNR, she added, and it’s the result of the effort of a lot of people over the years.
Bob Baird of DeLand, who’s been funding a TNR program of his own with his retirement check and finding homes for many feral cats, said he’s cautiously optimistic about the news.
“They’ve been talking for a long time,” he said.
Karen Clark, a member of the Volusia County Animal Control Advisory Board, spoke at the County Council meeting, suggesting the cats be tested for disease as part of the TNR process. She said local veterinary-technician schools could provide interns to work in a TNR program.
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