News from the US: Oklahoma City plans to sterilize, return feral cats

newsOK BY MICHAEL KIMBALL; October 27, 2011

The Oklahoma City Animal Welfare Division is moving forward with a program that will immunize and sterilize loosely owned or feral cats before returning them to the neighborhoods from which they came.

Oklahoma City‘s Animal Welfare Division officials hope a program in the works this fall will help save the lives of about a quarter of the cats that wind up in the pound instead of the 1 percent that are saved now

The Community Cats project aims to vaccinate and sterilize feral and so-called “loosely owned” cats that roam neighborhoods before returning them to where they were found, said Catherine English, the division’s manager. Loosely owned cats are cared for by one or more people in a neighborhood who put out food and water, but the animals typically roam the neighborhood and aren’t anyone’s pet.

A report on the proposed project was received favorably by the Oklahoma City Council at its meeting Tuesday, and English said the Animal Welfare Division will prepare an ordinance for the council’s approval to make the program official.

Once it’s launched, it will be the latest example of the public-private partnership between Animal Welfare and the Central Oklahoma Humane Society. The Humane Society already runs a smaller-scale version of the project, including helping to care for feral cat colonies at Lake Overholser and Lake Hefner.

Only about 1 percent of about 10,000 cats at Oklahoma City’s animal shelter were reclaimed by their owners last year, English said. Cats that are not eligible for adoption programs but are healthy, friendly and not declawed can be part of the community program, so about a quarter of those 10,000 cats will be returned to their neighborhoods instead of euthanized.

“It’s a nonlethal solution to a problem,” English said. “We can return them to the neighborhood, and they’ll be healthy and won’t breed.”

Cats that are part of the program will be marked with a notch in their ear so city residents and animal welfare workers can recognize them.

Pets could be targeted

But what separates community cats from unmarked family pets allowed to roam neighborhoods? Not much, English said, which means it’s possible a cat owner could find a pet returning home with a freshly notched ear and shaved belly after going missing for a couple of days.

That’s better than the alternative though, English said. Because it’s common for roaming cats to wander off for a while, sometimes owners don’t realize the cat is actually gone for good until it already has been euthanized at the shelter.

So the community cats project could save those cats’ lives, too.

“At least they’ll be getting their cats returned to them within a day or two,” English said.

The program will be paid for by pet adoption fees and Humane Society funds. The cost of the program hasn’t yet been fully estimated, but the council will receive a financial impact report.

To notify residents, workers will put door hangers on every house on a block from which a cat was taken.
Original story here

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