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City Considers Trap, Neuter and Return Program for Feral Cats

May 05, 2016 04:32PM ● Published by Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue tori@mycityjournals.com

West Jordan - West Jordan City is considering implementing a trap, neuter and return (TNR) program for feral cats as an alternative to the trap-and-kill method of controlling its cat population. The program would cost about $8,000 annually from the general fund and would be run by Best Friends Animal Society, an animal welfare nonprofit headquartered in Kanab, Utah.

West Jordan Animal Shelter takes in approximately 670 cats annually, and 51 percent of those cats are euthanized, according to data released by Best Friends. Although many cats are killed, the population of cats remains stagnant over a long period of time, according to Arlyn Bradshaw, executive director of Best Friends Animal Society—Utah.

“Using a trap-and-kill program causes a phenomenon wherein if a cat’s population is reduced, remaining cats will produce kittens at a higher rate to compensate,” Bradshaw said. “Even if all of the cats are removed, the habitat attracts new cats, drawing the community into a costly and endless cycle of trapping and killing.”

In Best Friends’ TNR program, healthy feral cats are trapped, brought to a clinic for sterilization and vaccination, ear tipped for identification and released back into the area where they were found.

“If these cats can’t reproduce, sense would say that the TNR program would reduce the size of the colony slowly and naturally,” Bradshaw said.

West Jordan’s Animal Shelter partners with all unincorporated areas of Salt Lake County. In addition, all of Davis County except Roy have TNR programs. The TNR program has become a more popular method of overseeing feral cat populations than trapping and euthanizing but is still controversial, according to Dan Eatchel, West Jordan Animal Shelter manager.

Even if the cats are vaccinated, many people don’t want cats on their property and view them as nuisances, Chief Doug Diamond of the West Jordan Police Department said at a city council meeting. For these reasons and others, West Jordan declined implementing a similar program a few years ago when projected costs neared $12,000, according to Diamond.

“Murray’s seen little to no reductions in the amount of cats they have roaming since they implemented the program,” Diamond said. “I’m skeptical about what they are saying it will do, but I am willing to try it.”

It takes time for the cat population to decrease using TNR, Eatchel said. That’s the biggest concern of residents who prefer euthanasia, he said.

The euthanasia process is fairly inexpensive, but the city pays for the staff time of the workers who euthanize the cats, and the cost of fuel for them to go out and trap the cat. A cost analysis between the euthanasia and TNR methods has not been conducted yet, Eatchel said, stating the city is only in the preliminary phase, and that the issue will likely be voted on in an upcoming city council meeting.

The city began looking into the TNR program when Councilmember Chris McConnehey added the program as a business item on the March 9 city council meeting agenda.

“During my time on the council, a number of residents have shared their concerns about making our animal shelter as humane as possible,” McConnehey said. “I ran into a neighbor, Geana Randall, who introduced me to an option that helps the animal population without a direct cost to the city by working with Best Friends. They’ve helped identify a few simple steps we can take to help resolve some of the animal concerns.”

Laura Wright and Caren Lopez are two of the residents who want to see West Jordan adopt a TNR program. On many evenings, Wright and Lopez can be found feeding the feral cat communities near their neighborhoods, one by the senior center on Sugar Factory Road between 2200 West and Redwood Road.

Lopez took it upon herself to perform the TNR program on the cats they feed, which she’s named and deemed her own. She trapped them, took them to a clinic for neutering and released them back into the community. In all, Lopez said she’s trapped, neutered and returned 65 cats in West Jordan and Murray combined.

“What’s nice about Murray is that I have the city to back me. It’s not like that [in West Jordan],” she said. “I think what I do is technically illegal.”

Even if West Jordan doesn’t create a partnership program with Best Friends, Lopez said she’d like to see the city ordinances change to allow volunteer caretakers to trap, neuter and release the cats on their own time. She said her West Jordan colony hasn’t grown since she had them neutered and they’ve been less wild and loud.

“The program works,” she said. “It would change this city.”  

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