CLINTON – Midwest Pets for Life faces a long battle in its effort to rid Clinton of its feral cat population, but the passage of an ordinance by the Clinton City Council allowing a trap, neuter, return program is giving it a start.

The TNR program is not funded by the city, said Sandi Bartels, operations manager of Midwest Pets for Life, and the organization needs grants and donations to pay for it.

According to a Pets for Life brochure, the volunteer organization is mapping feral cat colonies in Clinton and trapping the cats for spaying or neutering. The cats are vaccinated, micro-chipped and returned to their colonies.

“I would guess there’s thousands in this city,” said Bartels.

With assistance from Preston Moore of the Humane Society of the United States, Pets for Life convinced the City of Clinton to pass an ordinance allowing trapping, neutering and releasing of feral cats.

“We all worked with the Clinton City Council and the attorney,” Bartels said. “Before, it was illegal to feed these feral cats,” she said. Anyone feeding the cats would be considered their owners and would be required to license them, she said.

Now residents can trap feral cats, take them to the vet to have them spayed or neutered, and release them back where they are found, Bartels said. “Anybody can do it, but they have to follow the ordinance.”

“It was one of the options that we came up with,” said Clinton City Councilman Paul Gassman. Rather than euthanizing the animals, they are released back into the neighborhoods.

Some people opposed releasing the cats, Gassman said, but without the means to house them and find homes for them, the city decided this was the best option and signed a three-year agreement with the Humane Society.

“As the city, we had to look at it,” Gassman said.”We worked out an awful lot of things with the Humane Society.”

The city also sought legal advice from Lynch Dallas law firm in Cedar Rapids, Gassmann said. The firm serves many municipalities and shares with the Clinton City Council what other cities have done in the same situations Clinton faces.

“So we have a large pool of good advice ... so we don’t get sued,” Gassman said.

Bartel set six traps Monday in a Clinton neighborhood where a colony of cats is known to live. Tuesday morning she took the two feral cats that had been trapped to BeJaze Animal Hospital in DeWitt to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies and distemper and microchipped for tracking. Their ears were notched so they will be easily identifiable if they are trapped again.

“And then when they’re done at the vet, we take them back,” Bartels said.

The animals are wild, and “we don’t have the facility or the manpower” to keep them or find homes for them, Bartels said. But at least they aren’t reproducing. They will die natural deaths without adding to the cat population.

If Pets for Life removed the colony, another would move in board member and events coordinator Chris Buis said. But if the animals are returned to their colonies, they will keep other cats out of the area.

“Certainly this all depends on grant money … and donations,” said Bartels. Pets for Life pays $65 for a spay and $55 for a neuter, she said. “Our organization depends on donations.”

Pets for Life would love to see businesses and industries help with expenses, Bartels said. “This is something that affects the entire City of Clinton.”

Residents may mail donations to Midwest Pets for Life, 1854 410th Ave., P.O. Box 3205, Clinton, IA 52733-3205 or deposit money in the Midwest Pets TNR account at First Central State Bank on Second Street.