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Sugar Land, TX News – Fort Bend County’s Feral Kitties

Sugar Land, TX News (August 6, 2014) -In Richmond, and around Fort Bend County, there is a problem with cats and kittens being dropped off at random locations or tossed out of windows of moving cars. These cats turn into feral cats, if they survive the separation from their owners.

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After hearing that Fort Bend Animal Control traps and euthanizes feral cats, almost immediately, a meeting was scheduled with  Catherine Eldredge-Graczyk, manager, and Sharon Santy of Feral Cat Assistance Program, Citizens for Animal Protection (CAPS), Houston, and Dr. M. Kendrick, director, Health and Human Services, Fort Bend County; the director of Fort Bend Animal Control and the assistant director.

The definition of a feral cat, as provided by the Humane Society of the United States is a cat who has either never had any contact with humans or his/her contact with humans has diminished over time. He/she is fearful of people and survives on his/her own outdoors. A feral cat is not likely to ever become a lap cat. Kittens born to feral cats can be socialized at an early age and adopted into homes.

Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR), is where feral cats are trapped, spray/neutered and then released where they were trapped, to live out their lives, with respect the fact that they are living creatures. Most feral cats live five to seven years in their outdoor homes, and once sprayed/neutered, do not leave offspring behind.

In the meeting, Eldredge-Graczyk provided proven information from successful cities and other counties across the nation. For example, San Diego Department of Animal Care’s cost of euthanasia was $121 dollars per cat. When they initiated a TNR program over the course of five years they were able to save $859,221 and reduced their euthansia rate by 45 percent. Orange County Florida reported saving $655,949 over six years by doing TNR vs. euthansia.   San Antonio and Austin are implementing TNR programs and its working.  San Antonio Animal Control went from only releasing 29% of animals that came into their shelter in 2008/2009 to 77% of animal in 2012/2013 after starting a TNR program.

There have also been published reports in numerous publications such as the Wall Street Journal, and others from New York to California, showing the success of TNR.

Relocation of feral cats is not advised. If not done properly it is considered illegal and inhumane. Spraying/neutering normally solves many of the nuisance issues and deterrence techniques can also be used to allow the cats to safely move on their own. Unwanted domesticated animals should be properly re-homed. According to Texas law, all unwanted domestic pets are required to be surrendered at authorized shelters. Dropping them off or tossing them out the window is illegal, inhumane, and considered Animal Abuse, and is punishable by jail time.

According to Dr. Kendrick, “Fort Bend County regulations and the major cities’ ordinances (in Fort Bend) do not currently permit Trap-Neuter-Return.  We have received sporadic interest in such a program while most contacts from citizens continue to request removal of feral cats from their area.”

Again, there have been hundreds of studies and statistics that show euthanizing feral cats does not eliminate the feral cat population, it actually increases it.  Moreover, in older downtown areas across the country,  store owners depend on feral cats to keep the mice, rats, and roach populations in check. Warehouse and large office complexes in Houston and around the country adopt feral cats for these same reasons.

However according to Eldriedge-Graczyk, “In Texas, trapping and euthanizing feral cats has been a common practice among Animal Control agencies for decades. The current proliferation of cats shows this method fails to reduce the population. The only alternative is trap-neuter-return.”

“So why do Animal Control agencies continue with practices that do not work, and are not in the best interest of the community?  Simply put, they continue because many feel this is what their residents want, because they only hear from residents who want the cats removed. But residents do not have another option, and some are not aware of alternatives. I encourage residents to call their officials and tell them they want trap-neuter-return as an option,” Eldredge-Graczyk said.

After the meeting Dr. Kendrick noted, “Fort Bend County Health and Human Services will continue to research and explore the concept of a TNR program.  If a location with a population accepting of the practice is identified, and if resources for the costs associated with trapping and performing the surgeries and vaccinations are made available, Fort Bend County Health & Human Services would be willing to explore a pilot TNR population with the idea of proving results in terms of reduction of the feral cat population prior to introducing a wide scale program.”

But until then, feral cats in Fort Bend County are being unnecessarily euthanized.

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