Cedar City Council is considering a ‘different approach’ for free-roaming cats – St George News


CEDAR CITY — Two women with cat ears waited in the front row for the Cedar City Council meeting until late Wednesday night.

Women wear cat ear headbands with ear tips to support a field-to-return community cat program, Cedar City, Utah, September 7, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

Each headband featured a pointed ear to support a proposed Return-to-the-Field community cat program that advocates say could reduce the number of cats entering shelters and the overall feline population in the community.

Shelter director Brittany McCabe and her predecessors have done a “remarkable job” in achieving non-killing status at Cedar City’s animal adoption center, Cedar City Police Chief Darin Adams said.

“Unfortunately, there have been times … as you’ve seen where there’s a month or two where we fall out of there,” he said. “Because we euthanize more cats than we should, because there are a lot of cats that come into this shelter – a lot of them that are feral and not adoptable.”

The “only option,” Adams said, is to approve an ordinance creating a community cat program. He invited Arlyn Bradshaw, a senior advisor in the office of the CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, to the panel to explain the program.

Cats are at “a significantly higher risk” of being euthanized at shelters in Utah and across the country, Bradshaw said. In Cedar City, 4% of cats entering a shelter were returned to their owners, compared to 59% of dogs.

“So most dogs actually go back to a shelter when they’re confiscated from the shelter,” he said. “Very few cats ever leave the shelter to go back to a home.”

In this file photo, Peaches and her kittens are at the Cedar City Animal Adoption Center, Cedar City, Utah March 15, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

In Cedar City, 549 cats and 407 dogs entered a shelter in 2021, Bradshaw said.

“So many more cats are coming into the shelter right now,” he said. “That’s why we’re looking for a different approach.”

According to Utah community cat law By law, a community cat is a feral or free-ranging cat with no visible identification or microchip and has been spayed, vaccinated and earplugged. Community cats are exempt from permit requirements and feeding bans, and can be released from a shelter before the mandatory five-day hold period ends.

“So the city doesn’t have to pay for these cats to sit there for five days, they can leave the shelter right away,” Bradshaw said.

The community cat program is a “humane, non-lethal alternative to trap-and-kill methods” traditionally used to manage free-roaming cats, Bradshaw said. Healthy or easily treatable cats are captured, taken to a shelter or veterinary clinic for spaying and vaccination, earplugged for later identification, and released where found.

A cat with spiked ears at the Cedar City Animal Adoption Center, Cedar City, Utah, March 15, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

Ear spikes are when part of a cat’s ear is surgically removed, typically while they are already undergoing another surgery, such as a cat augmentation. B. a castration or neutering, are under anesthesia this article from the Best Friends Animal Society. With this method, the ear remains square at the top and not pointed.

Best Friends Animal Society encourages community cat programs because trap-and-kill methods create a phenomenon of cat overbreeding to compensate for sporadic declines in the colony’s population, Bradshaw said.

“So you end up with more cats,” he said.

In addition, in areas of consistently high intake, the cat population receives something, e.g. B. a food source. So, Bradshaw said, it’s important to figure out why they’re there and “break the cycle” with sterilization.

Community cat programs reduce the burden on shelter staff by reducing the number of cats taken in and the length of stay for those who are, Bradshaw said. Community volunteers can help avoid the shelter altogether by bringing feral or loose cats to the clinic for spaying and earplugs. The practice also reduces unwanted throws.

A cat at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Kanab, Utah, February 24, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St George News

“The whole goal of this program is to reduce the number of free-roaming cats –– not just let them take over the city,” he said.

Spaying and neutering cats also prevents some undesirable behaviors such as fighting, howling, and spattering. In addition, animals under the program are also vaccinated, which limits the spread of disease within the colony, Bradshaw said.

The program can empower the community by “bridging the gap” between those who like cats, those who don’t, and animal control, who would work together to capture and sterilize cats.

Animal control is “about combating harassment,” Bradshaw said. And some citizens don’t like cats. To address their concerns, Best Friends staff trains shelter workers and animal control officials in “deterrence.”

Individuals who dislike the community cats would have options to keep the animals off their property, such as B. Scat mats in gardens or motion-activated sprinklers in courtyards. Best Friends staffers would also reach out to neighborhoods to explain the program and offer resources, Bradshaw said.

The Utah legislature passed the Community Cat Act in 2013, Bradshaw said. That year, 52% of all cats brought to shelters died. By 2021, 87% exited shelters alive.

This file photo shows community cats, date and location not given | Photo courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society, Cedar City New

Salt Lake County started a community cat program in 2010 and at the time was taking in 16,000 cats a year, 63% of which were euthanized, Bradshaw said. In 2021, the county’s cat intake was 3,302.

“So you can see the effectiveness there in Utah,” he said.

Best Friends Animal Society submitted a proposal for a pilot program to the Cedar City Police Department and the Cedar City Animal Adoption Center, Bradshaw said.

Best Friends would provide 100% of the funding needed to run the pilot program for “about three years” for up to 200 cats annually. They would pay for any spaying and neutering surgeries, vaccinations and additional equipment needed for the program, like traps, Bradshaw said.

The organization would provide staff and training for shelter and animal control staff, as well as mentorship for volunteers to implement the program, Bradshaw said. Catch assistance would be provided to residents of Cedar City so they can bypass the shelter.

City Council Considers Community Cat Program Coming From Field-to-Return Cedar City, Utah, September 7, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

In addition, Best Friends has a partnership with Southern Utah Animal Hospital, offering them a variety of community supports such as: B. Spaying and neutering surgeries for adoptable pets, Bradshaw said.

Councilor Tyler Melling said that considering the cultural changes in the Cedar City community, he thinks the program is “much better” than the current approach.

Councilor Terri Hartley said the proposal was “perfect timing” as McCabe is already helping her solve a “cat problem” in her neighborhood.

Adams said he will draft an ordinance. Melling told Cedar City News in a text message that the issue will likely return to the council for consideration in the next two months.

For more information on community cats, visit the Best Friends Animal Society website here. Watch the entire discussion on the Cedar City Council YouTube channel here.

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