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Animal task force will gather Tuesday

A newly appointed Jackson County task force designed to address ongoing cat issues will hold its first public forum Tuesday.

The Animal Control Advisory Committee was formed in early January in response to public outrage over reports of two pet cats being mistakenly euthanized at the Jackson County animal shelter and a stray feline being burned in Eagle Point. Later that month, more than a dozen cats and kittens were believed to have been poisoned in Phoenix.

The committee has been tasked to develop recommendations for short-term and long-term solutions that address the problems of too many stray, feral, and abandoned cats and the inability of the county's existing animal shelters to handle them.

The forum will begin at 6 p.m. in the Medford library's large meeting room, 205 S. Central Ave., Medford.

Shelter Director Colleen Macuk said some changes already have been implemented at the Jackson County Animal Care and Control Center in Phoenix. New scanners have been purchased that are safer for staff to use on feral cats. All cats brought to the shelter now are being scanned within 24 hours, many on the day of entry, she said. But not all microchips are picked up by every scanner, she added.

"There has only been one chip found in a cat since January," she said.

"All cats are being held overnight at the Jackson County Animal Shelter to give them time to settle before being evaluated, unless it would be better for humane reasons to euthanize a terribly sick or injured cat," Macuk said.

A lost-and-found space now is available on Jackson County Animal Shelter's Facebook page, which is helping to reunite pet owners with their animals more quickly.

Photos of cats and dogs received at the shelter are added regularly by staff, and owners who have lost animals also can post photos and descriptions, she said.

"A list of 'found' cats received at the Jackson County Animal Shelter has been added to the list of 'found' dogs in the classified section of the Mail Tribune," Macuk said.

The committee includes leadership from the county's animal shelter and environmental health department, the Southern Oregon Humane Society and several volunteer feline care organizations including Spay Neuter Your Pet, or SNYP, Friends of the Animal Shelter, and Committed Alliance to Strays, or CATS.

The organizations are working together to handle the extra load of cats entering the county's shelter, Macuk said.

Other topics of discussionat the public forum will include recommending changes in county ordinances and shelter practices that would provide the same status to cats that is given to dogs; educating the public about responsible pet ownership and county ordinances, including spay/neuter issues; and implementing programs that will reduce the number of animals coming into shelters and improve the care provided to all cats and dogs in the shelters, she said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.