Arlington is considering a more humane strategy to controlling its feral cat population.
Currently, the city euthanizes nearly all of the thousands of feral cats that are trapped and brought into the animal shelter. But under a new proposal set to be voted on by Arlington City Council in August, the city would allow nonprofit animal rescue groups to sterilize and vaccinate trapped feral cats and then release them back into their neighborhoods with the promise of long-term care.
Arlington has seen a 15 percent increase in the number of feral, stray or unwanted cats brought into the shelter over the past two years, said Mike Bass, Code Compliance Services assistant director. About 5,680 cats were surrendered last year, up from 4,451 the year before, and only about 40 percent of them found new homes.
“We are going to see a continue growth of the problem,” Bass said. “The procreation is happening on a very fast pace, and it is very difficult to control.”
Last week, an Arlington City Council committee recommended approval of a Trap, Neuter and Return policy, which has been pushed during the past year by advocacy groups such as the Arlington Feral Cat Coalition, Alley Cat Allies and Friends of Arlington Animal Services.
“We have trapping and killing [feral cats] for decades, and it hasn’t made any difference,” said Kathy Beeler, founder of the Arlington Feral Cat Coalition. “What we are doing is not helping the problem, and it’s time to try something else.”
The City of San Angelo Animal Shelter once collaborated 25 local feral cat colonies. That fell by the wayside. Nearly two weeks ago the City declared war on one cat colony.
“Number one, there is free rodent control,” Beeler said. “The cats that will be in their neighborhood won’t be reproducing, so they won’t have cats having kittens in their bushes and them having to deal with that.”Hopefully San Angelo's new Mayor and City Council will cause a change in practice regarding feral cats. Threatening a local citizen, one who worked to reduce a colony of 200 to 55 cats, with arrest makes no sense. If Council can't change the threats and intimidation, the City could lose the 13 feral cat colonies that remain. That includes people voluntarily donating time and money to reduce the city's feral cat problem. Arlington is a Texas story worth examining.
Sterilization also addresses some of the feral cats’ nuisance behaviors, such as spraying and fighting.
Other cities have endorsed trap, neuter and release strategies to control the cat population.