By Stephen Hawboldt
Annapolis County councillors were told at their committee of the whole last week that there is a burgeoning problem with stray and feral cats and that a broad program of spaying and neutering may be the only long term solution.
A county staff report highlighted the problems surrounding feral and stray cats in the municipality and offered possible remedies. It noted that Annapolis County is one of only two rural municipalities that have programs to address stray cats. The possibility of ignoring the issue did not seem to be an option councillors were willing to entertain at this time.
So far this year, the county animal control has received 233 cat complaints, up almost 40 per cent from two years ago. The council was told that the calls have been overwhelming to the point that dog kennels have been used to house mother cats with kittens. The report said, “the pound was not designed to house cats and only has five holding cages but staff has had up to 16 at one time.”
The municipality has an arrangement with the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) to assist with stray dogs and cats although the focus has been on cats. The report notes that, “year after year, the number of unadopted cats grows.” When CAPS is unable to find adoptive homes, the cats are put in foster care with volunteers.
The report warns that CAPS may now be reaching the capacity of the volunteers to foster more cats. The group has, “no strategic plan established to expand their present operation nor confirm their continuation.” The municipality contributes slightly more than $10,000 annually to CAPS.
The municipality also contributes about $6,000 annually to Team TNR (Trap Neuter Release), a local charity aimed at humanely reducing cat populations. In a presentation to the council, Team TNR told council that there is a serious cat overpopulation problem and that spay-neuter is, “the most effective and efficient way to tackle this problem.”
They told council that as their current funding was used up in October they could not respond to several serious situations. They say that by the time Team TNR intervenes this spring, the size of these colonies will be much larger.
They asked that the annual grant be increased to $12,000 stressing that, “every penny is spent only on spay-neuter.” This request will be discussed during the budget process.
Team TNR said that, “the large size of the cat population, its staggering growth potential and high vet charges for spay-neuter are the difficulties we face.” The group said that this operation can cost $380 to $420 at some clinics making this option unaffordable for many citizens. Team TNR uses a clinic in another part of the province where the charges are from $90 to $120 per animal.
Several other councillors expressed support for a spay-neuter program. Deputy Warden Marilyn Wilkins and Councillor Gregory Heming volunteered to investigate the veterinary cost concerns. This issue is likely to stay on the council agenda until budget time or longer.