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Animal services introduces feral cat control program

By Staff | May 30, 2009

Lee County Animal Services is instituting a trap, neuter, and release program (or TNR) in hopes of controlling the feral cat population.
A first for Lee County, the program was developed with help from the public as well as utilizing input from University of Florida.
Spokeswoman Ria Brown said LCAS director Donna Ward wanted to develop a TNR program since taking over late last year, but waited until the public had the opportunity to have its voices heard.
As part of the University of Florida’s assessment study of LCAS, the community was invited to take part.
“There’s differing opinions about whether or not TNR actually works,” Brown said. “Our new director was interested in implementing the idea. But, as part of the shelter assessment, we had a forum so the public could have some additional knowledge about how these programs work.”
Like any new effort, the success of the TNR program will hinge entirely on whether the public at large accepts its ability to truly make a difference.
LCAS has tried using programs like low-cost spay and neuter clinics, foster care, and expansion of its shelter facility to help quell the rising animal population, particularly the rise in cat colonies.
With the arrival of “kitten season” LCAS will take in anywhere from 1,500 – 2,000 cats a month, some of which will be euthanized.
A lot, if not the majority, of those kittens will come from feral cats or feral cat colonies.
The TNR program hopes to put power into the hands of the public by offering education, traps, and assistance in catching cats.
Most importantly, euthanasia is avoided because the animals are released back into the wild once they have been spayed or neutered.
LCAS has several volunteers who are charged with trapping feral cats, but the program will sink or swim by the amount of help from the public.
“Realistically, we need the people who are familiar with where these feral colonies are,” Brown said. “It’s only going to be successful if the people are willing to do this.”
LCAS is asking for $20 donations for each cat that’s spayed or neutered and then returned, but they are willing to waive those fees if necessary.
Basic information on the new TNR program is available online at leelostpets.com, or by calling 533-PETS.