Charles should change trap, neuter/spay, re­lease pol­icy for cats

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

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

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