Sterilizing Stray Cats

Houston officials are looking for ways to curb the stray animal population. City Council approved an ordinance that allows residents to have feral cats spayed or neutered and then released back into the community. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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It used to be against the law for Houston residents to feed feral cats. And if you brought a cat to the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care it would likely be euthanized. Councilmember Michael Berry was the main supporter of the new ordinance, called the Trap, Neuter, Release program.ξ

"Thousands of cats in our community are feral, which means undomesticated, roaming the streets. It's a real problem for a number of different reasons, this is the best way to handle it. Just by neutering these cats and putting them back on the street as opposed to destroying them. It's sort of counterintuitive, but it's a compassionate way to manage your feral cat community."

Animal control experts say one million feral kittens are born in the Houston region every year. Each female cat is capable of reproducing as many as 200 more cats in her lifetime. BARC Chief Kent Robertson says they're asking residents to report feral cats to the Bureau. Then an animal control officer can help residents find a vet clinic that's participating in the Trap N Release program.

"The veterinarian will examine the cat. If the cat is sick, has feline leukemia or something like that, it'll probably be euthanized. If it's healthy, then it will be vaccinized for rabies, for the distemper vaccinations, sterilized, it will be ear-tipped in the left ear and it will be micro-chipped. And so we know which cats have been sterilized and then folks just put it back into the colony that they're feeding now."

There is a fee for the services. BARC will refer people to certain clinics participating in the program that charge $30 for female cats and $25 for males. And Robertson says this has worked in other places.

"Here in the United States, there's been a number of large cities that have taken this on and it has been successful. San Diego, California, Maricopa County which is Phoenix, Indianapolis and these other cities have seen significant reduction in the number of feral cats in their city."

In fact, Michael Berry says San Francisco officials reduced that city's feral cat population by several hundred thousand over the course of a few years using a Trap, Neuter, Release program. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.


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