Feral cat program plans forwarded

CLINTON -- City officials are moving forward with a plan that aims to humanely reduce the stray cat population in Clinton.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), a nationwide initiative through the Humane Society of the United States, has been introduced to the city by animal activists concerned with the number of feral cats in Clinton. The program aims to humanely lower the stray and feral cat population by capturing the animals, neutering or spaying them, and releasing them back to their colonies or groups. This eliminates the chance for reproduction among the population, and, in theory, will reduce the numbers. Tuesday night, the Clinton City Council Committee of the Whole voted to forward an ordinance that would allow the program to be implemented in the city for the first time.

TNR was lauded by council members, as many have seen the issue of rampant stray animals firsthand.

"I think this is a good program that I think we should move forward with," Councilman Cody Seeley said after a presentation from HSUS Iowa State Director Preston Moore at Tuesday's meeting. "It seems that we're all in agreement."

The program, which would be entirely funded by grant money and community donations, also would allow for microchipping of newly spayed or neutered cats as well as a "completely painless" notching of an ear to signal to concerned community members or animal advocates that the animals have undergone the procedure and don't need to be trapped again.

Moore said it would not be any responsibility of a city animal control officer to trap the cats, rather the concerned citizens themselves or animal advocacy groups like Midwest Pets for Life to work with area veterinary clinics or the Clinton Humane Society.

Aside from gradually lowering the feral cat population, the nationwide program also has been shown to reduce the number of stray cats that have been euthanized at local humane societies or clinics.

"With a problem like this comes some solutions," Moore told council members Tuesday. "We want to reduce the number of free-roaming cats that are unowned. That's what this all boils down to. We want to reduce the number of complaints from the public, your constituents. We want to reduce the number of cats that are permanently impounded or euthanized. We want to protect public health and wildlife. A program like TNR will help us accomplish these."

Midwest Pets for Life advocates were on hand Tuesday to further explain the program's implementation. Sandi Bartels, the group's co-operations manager, urged council members to support moving the ordinance forward due to the fact that the group cannot apply for state or federal grants without the ordinance in place.

"We can't go ahead and do anything until we know that (the ordinance) is a go," Bartels said. "We want to fund it with grant money, and with donations, but we can't apply for the grants until we know that there is officially going to be a TNR program."

The council will vote to approve the ordinance at the April 23 meeting.