Post 1 Commissioner Dave Carmichael said he plans to ask other commissioners to support his plan for an ordinance requiring feral cats to be trapped, neutered or spayed and returned to the location they were found.
“My constituents have known I’ve been interested in improvements in that area,” Carmichael said.
“A lot of progress is being made. There are always things we can do to ratchet it up.”
Carmichael last week helped organize two public meetings featuring attorney Liz Holtz of the national feral cat advocacy group Alley Cat Allies. Holtz lobbies for the trap, neuter and return method nationwide and offered county officials an ordinance she wrote specifically for Paulding County, she said.
The county’s animal control law requires owners to keep control of an animal with a leash “or similar physical control device,” keep them confined within a fenced area or building, and not allow them to have access to another person’s property without the owner’s permission.
“It’s essentially saying that a cat has to stay indoors,” Holtz said.
Feral cats are house cats that have changed their nature to being wild, or are born in the wild. The Paulding shelter does not adopt them out because of their natural resistance to domestication and is forced to euthanize them.
Holtz said the trap, neuter and return method reduces the feral cat population more humanely. The cats are neutered or spayed, rendered unable to reproduce and the colony of feral cats reduces or disappears from natural causes, she said.
Carmichael said in anticipation of the upcoming budget, he planned to ask county staff members to compile cost figures for the plan.
He admitted some residents have questioned the costs, though he said such a method likely would eliminate the cost of feeding and eventually cremating the animal.
Paulding’s shelter already reduces its cost through use of volunteers who actively work to help stray animals. Those volunteers could be used to help trap the cats, Carmichael said.
He said 300 counties and municipalities nationwide have trap, neuter and return ordinances.
Carmichael also said he wanted to create a new shelter staff position to focus on encouraging adoptions. The increased revenue from adoptions would eventually pay for the position, he said.
“The kill rate, in my opinion, is too high,” he said.
Capt. LeAnn LeHolm of the Paulding County Marshal’s Bureau, which oversees the county animal shelter, said she agrees with the neuter and spay part of the plan, but believes returning the feral cat to the same location would be a problem for many property owners who may kill the unwanted stray animal.
LeHolm said, based on the numbers, the best method of reducing the number of stray animals would be spaying and neutering all adopted animals. She estimated the cost at about $89,000 annually.
A total of 146 feral cats, or about 15 percent, were euthanized in 2013. Another 167 were euthanized in 2012, or about 9 percent of the total that year, LeHolm said.