Arlington animal control using grant to bear down on feral cats
Fort Worth Start Telegram - April 2, 2016 by Robet Cadwaller
If you’re annoyed by feral cats in your neighborhood and can catch one, the city is offering a convenient drop-off place to have it sterilized and vaccinated for rabies. The services are free if you live in the east Arlington ZIP codes of 76010 or 76014 — the area the city has determined to have the most feral cats. Elsewhere in Arlington, feral cats and other strays, as well as adopted outdoor cats, are eligible for low-cost neutering and vaccinations at clinics in Burleson and Hurst that are operated by the Texas Coalition for Animal Protection, a nonprofit based in North Texas.
The Arlington Animal Services Center campaign targeting the two ZIP Codes, funded by a $41,000 grant from PetSmart Charities in 2013, is a trap-neuter-return program. The cats are released back into their neighborhoods after having their left ear clipped at the very tip, marking them as no longer a reproduction risk. Neuter-and-return programs have been growing in popularity, said Robert Knox, business development director for TCAP. He believes it’s helping to ease the overpopulation of feral cats without relying on euthanasia. “It’s a humane approach to handling the feral cat population,” Knox said. “We’re hoping that anyone who has feral cats — even if outside those ZIP Codes — will have them altered at a low cost,” Huff said. “Once an appointment is made with TCAP, the normal altering, rabies vaccination and ear-tip can be done for as low as $25.”
“Those are high-intake areas for the city,” said Stacey Schumacher, executive director of TCAP. Trap-neuter-return “is trying to take care of the cat population. They keep coming to the [city] shelter, and they’re trying to decrease those numbers.”
Not everyone supports trap-neuter-return. Mainly, opponents don’t want the cats back in their neighborhoods because of the threat to birds. Huff said the city and animal groups are educating residents about cat-deterrence products on the market, which they say are effective at keeping cats out of yards. Most use ultrasonic sound, mild chemical repellants or motion-activated, high-powered water sprays.
Like them or not, trap-neuter-return programs appear to be helping. The Arlington Animal Services program had more than 300 cats neutered or spayed in the past three months toward a total target of about 700 cats by the summer.
The number of cats taken in by the animal center has declined sharply from a high of 5,680 cats in 2012 to a low of 3,832 cats in 2015, according to statistics compiled by the Friends of Arlington Animal Services.Huff said the number of cats euthanized at the city shelter has declined from an average of 3,000 before the current trap-neuter-return program started in 2013 to fewer than 1,000 cats a year.
Kelli Eaves, board member and co-director of the Friends charity, estimates that about 6,000 cats have been spayed or neutered since August 2013, when a City Council resolution allowed the city to participate in trap-neuter-return projects. The resolution also excused TNR cats from the city’s leash law, allowing them to roam freely outdoors. And it opened the door to many TNR-related grants.
The city animal center has capitalized on a variety of grants. The Arlington Tomorrow Foundation has awarded $343,250 in eight grants since 2008. The largest awarded were $125,000 for a mobile pet adoption unit and $78,000 to add a shade structure and an agility course for dogs at the center. PetSmart Charities, in addition to the current $41,000 grant, previously gave a pair of $10,000 grants for a free TNR program and treatment for dogs positive for heartworms, Huff said.
The payoff of TNR programs is obvious, but animal groups need to be diligent about feral cats, Eaves said.
“Once they get fixed, there’s no more of the howling and mating and fighting,” Eaves said. “But since we’ve had such a warm winter, this will be a challenging kitten season, and it is important to get as many cats in Arlington spayed and neutered before there is a feline population boom.”
More than 2,000 feral cats neutered in first year of Arlington program
Arlington Citizen Journal - September 15, 2014 BY ROBERT CADWALLADER
More than 2,000 feral cats in Arlington have been trapped, neutered and returned to their home territories in the first year of a program designed to reduce the populations of free-roaming cats, according to Friends of Arlington Animal Services, the nonprofit running the city-approved project.
About 1,200 of the cats were turned over to FAAS by city animal services for sterilizing and vaccinating against rabies, which saved most of the cats from euthanasia, said Kelli Eaves, co-director of the animal protection group. Those saves accounted for 32 percent of all cats taken in by the city shelter. Most of the remaining 800 cats were trapped by FAAS members.
Eaves said the catch-and-release program is a first in Arlington, which she said is home to an estimated 50,000 or more free-roaming cats. Previously, most of the cats that wound up at the animal control center never made it out.
“We’ve seen them come in and they stayed for three days and they were euthanized,” Eaves said. “We’d just have boxes and boxes of kittens coming into the animal shelter. It’s just heartbreaking because most of them are put down.” That motivated the group to push for a partnership with the city and a resolution exempting the altered and released cats from the city’s leash law. The City Council approved the resolution a year ago.
Taking the cats and then putting them back may sound counterintuitive as a means of controlling a feral cat population. But experts say it works, especially because of the double benefit from “fixing” males: They remain territorial — keeping out prowling toms looking to mate — but have no interest in reproduction.
“It’s a wonderful strategy, because it will never be possible to get rid of roaming cats,” said Arlington resident Lacey Camp. “But if they’re altered, it’s a better environment for everyone. You don’t have cats fighting in the neighborhood, and you don’t have new cats coming in that aren’t altered.” Camp, who lives near Cooper Street and Interstate 20, said she had neighbors who habitually fed feral cats, leading to four litters of kittens in five months. “The neighbors were good-hearted, kind people who thought they were doing good by feeding feral cats,” Camp said. “Someone with a heart is always going to feed them. The problem is they keep staying in the area where they know they’re going to be fed.” Sterilized feral cats also will hang around, Camp said. “But there won’t be any more added to their number. And they’ll have their rabies shot.”
FAAS, which was founded in 2007 and has 50 members, has operated out of a cramped 900-square-foot office space in a strip retail center in central Arlington since January. It has a small surgical area and a veterinarian who spays and neuters the cats and vaccinates them against rabies. He also snips off the very tip of an ear on each cat before it is returned to its old stomping grounds. That helps to identify the cat and signal to pet owners and other residents that the cat is sterile, unaggressive and free of rabies.
The vet charges FAAS $40 to $50 per altered, vaccinated cat, but Eaves calls that a bargain compared with the typical retail cost of $100 or more. The group pays the bill with donations; the city doesn’t contribute funds for the surgeries.
FAAS is raising funds for a move into a 2,500-square-foot space that would have more room to take in feral cats trapped by residents.
The prodigious reproduction capacity of cats make for a daunting challenge. One female cat and her female offspring can produce 100 to 400 cats in seven years, according to the newsletter The Feral Cat Times, a champion of feral spay-neuter programs, which asked the University of Washington mathematics department to do the math.
The catch-and-return strategy, in effect, is an if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em strategy.
“If you just trap them and take them away, more will come,” Eaves said. “Might as well have them fixed.”
ARLINGTON - Euthanization of stray cats on the decline
Fort Worth Star Telegram - February 18, 2014
Friends of Arlington Animal Services members are celebrating a dramatic reduction in the number of stray cats being euthanized since the launch of the city’s trap-neuter-return policy last fall.
Since August, hundreds of outdoor cats in the city have been neutered, vaccinated and ear-tipped before being returned to their neighborhoods, which FAAS co-director Kelli Eaves says is a cost-effective and humane way to control the feral cat population.
“Many people do not understand that every street in the city has outdoor cats. If these cats are neutered and vaccinated for rabies, the colonies will become stable and eventually the numbers start to decline instead of continually multiplying,” Eaves said.
Eaves said January was a record month, with only 24 of the 270 cats brought in the shelter being euthanized. Before the trap-neuter-return policy, less than half of the cats brought to the shelter left alive, live-release statistics show.
Nearly all of the thousands of feral cats that are trapped and brought into the animal shelter were euthanized before the policy. Now the city allows nonprofit animal rescue groups such as FAAS to sterilize and vaccinate trapped feral cats and then release them back into their neighborhoods with the promise of long-term care.
FAAS, a nonprofit group, also expects to be able to neuter 100 feral cats a week at its new Snip and Tip spay and neuter clinic, Eaves said. To learn more, visit the Friends of Arlington Animal Services Facebook page. Arlington residents who need assistance with feral cats in their neighborhood or who would like to volunteer can contact FAAS at email@example.com.
— Susan Schrock