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MailTribune.com
  • Animal shelter examines feral no-kill policy

    County thinks trap-neuter/spay-return movement could help decrease feline euthanasia
  • Jackson County is considering joining the trap-neuter/spay-return movement to help reduce the high rate of euthanasia among cats at the animal shelter, county officials say.
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  • Jackson County is considering joining the trap-neuter/spay-return movement to help reduce the high rate of euthanasia among cats at the animal shelter, county officials say.
    "There is some controversy about it because a lot of people bring us feral cats and don't want them back in the neighborhood, even if they're spayed," says Barbara Talbert, manager of Jackson County Animal Care and Control.
    Trapping and euthanizing feral cats is inhumane and is not solving the problem, she says. Any cats left behind continue to breed or other cats move in.
    "If you spay them, the colony will die out because the average lifespan is two or three years," Talbert says.
    Retired veterinarian Dale Bush, a member of the Animal Control and Advisory Committee, says it's time to look at alternatives to euthanasia.
    "Most feral cats are being euthanized and it's not reducing the population," he says. "It's also not nice to the cats. They are terrified."
    Trap-neuter/spay-return is being practiced across the country to help reduce feral cat populations, which have grown to epidemic proportions. According to the Oregon Humane Society, one pair of cats and their offspring can produce as many as 588 new kittens by the third year, 4,118 new kittens by the fourth.
    Live traps are fairly cheap and available at home stores, Bush says. So-called "community cats" that are tame and getting fed in the neighborhood will be dealt with the same as feral cats, he says.
    The program is just getting underway and details, including funding, are not yet worked out, he says.
    The animal shelter already has made strides in reducing the number of cats euthanized each year. In 2010 and 2011, euthanasia rates hovered at 80 percent. But after an owner's pet that was accidentally euthanized caused a public outcry in December 2011, the county sought and began implementing improvements recommended by the Oregon Humane Society — including accepting fewer animals and improving adoption programs — that brought the euthanasia rate down to about 63 percent in 2012.
    Feral cats are not used to being handled by humans and will bite or scratch, possibly causing infections, making them unadoptable, animal shelter officials say. All cats brought to the shelter are scanned for microchips and assessed for their adoptability. Currently, if they are deemed unadoptable and aren't claimed within up to five days, they are euthanized.
    Under a trap-neuter/spay-return program, the cats would be released not only spayed and neutered, but de-bugged from fleas and other pests, says Bush.
    "We just don't approve of killing them," he says. "That's not the purpose of an animal shelter."
    John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.
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