Charles should change trap, neuter/spay, release policy for cats
I am ecstatic to see that the three Southern Maryland counties are proceeding with plans for new animal shelters [“Calvert moves forward with new animal shelter,” May 20]. However, as stated by veterinarian Michelle Quigley, new shelters will make no difference to the animals if they are not accompanied by drastic changes in policy.
The current practice of Charles County Animal Control is to treat cats as if they were vermin. Anyone can trap a cat and bring it to the shelter or animal control will come and pick up the cat at taxpayer expense. There is no charge to the person who traps the cat. Almost all of these cats are killed by animal control. However, if a person wants to reclaim the kidnapped cats the person has to pay board fees, a reclaim fee and a license fee as well as a rabies fee. One important change would be to require the person turning in an animal to the shelter to pay a fee. This would discourage the trapping of cats that are doing no one any harm. Charles County animal regulations allow nuisance animals to be impounded and ultimately killed, but no one determines that the animal is actually a nuisance prior to trapping it and “nuisance” is not defined in the regulations.
As a founder of Throwaways Rescue Foundation, the only Charles County non-profit that has helped hundreds of people spay and neuter feral and abandoned cats that they were feeding, I have had many cats turned in to animal control out of the thousands that were spayed or neutered and ear-tipped. Most recently I helped a lady who lives on Cobb Island spay and neuter a number of stray cats so they would not keep reproducing. Someone on Cobb Island has trapped several of these cats and turned them over to animal control. After spending money getting them fixed and vaccinated (a free service to Charles County), I now had to spend money to rescue them from animal control. This amounts to extortion. Animal control should refuse to accept ear-tipped cats. Prince George’s County initiated a policy that all ear-tipped cats were to be returned to the group that spayed and neutered them. Charles County should use the same policy.
Charles County Animal Control Services should be renamed Charles County Animal Services. Their job description should be changed from pest control to helping the people of Charles County humanely care for the abandoned pets that can be found throughout the county. Trapping and killing these cats has never worked. All trap and kill does is spend taxpayer money in a fruitless and cruel program. Trap, neuter and return, however, costs the tax payer nothing while stopping reproduction and providing vaccination against rabies. The State of Maryland has a new program that provides funds to nonprofits to do low-cost spay and neuter specifically to reduce the stray cat population. It makes economic sense for Charles County to get behind the state effort. Animal shelters have enough business handling cats that are turned in by their owners. If the shelters stopped accepting feral cats they could more readily find homes for give-ups while avoiding overcrowding that leads to killing of cats. Many jurisdictions around the country like Phoenix and San Antonio have stopped accepting feral cats while supporting trap, neuter and return. Cats that have been spayed or neutered are cared for by the same people who were feeding them.
It is time for animal control in Charles County to enter the 21st century. If the current personnel cannot deal with the change, then Charles County should hire people who really care for the animals and ensure that a new facility is also a new start for humane treatment.
Steven W. Brennan, Waldorf