County Animal Control Panel Focuses on Feral Cat Issues
Attention focused on the feral cat situation at the latest meeting of the Moore County Animal Control Ordinance Revision Committee.
The committee, chaired by Mary Jo Morris, devoted the meeting to a discussion of feral cats and how the issue can be addressed in the county ordinance.
At a previous meeting, a group known as Feral Friends of the Sandhills presented a proposed ordinance to permit the managed care of feral cats. The committee has since suggested that it would be more practical to incorporate provisions of that proposal into the regular animal control ordinance.
Feral cats are not wild cats. They are cats that were born or raised in a domestic setting and later were abandoned or lost, to become accustomed to independent living in the wild. The typical feral cat is skittish and not suitable as a pet but is not dangerous unless it has contracted a communicable disease.
At the April 15 meeting, Maureen Burke-Horansky of Animal Advocates of Moore County presented a paper on feral cats.
Susan Campbell, a consulting biologist, addressed the committee from a different perspective, in which she described the danger cats present to the bird population. Campbell said feral cats are predators and thus are better at hunting birds than their tame cousins in domestic settings.
Dr. Tom Daniel, a veterinarian, discussed research he has done on both sides of the feral cat issue. He said it is difficult to draw absolute conclusions from the findings.
Burke-Horansky said feral cats are blamed for many acts they do not perpetrate. These include everything from killing songbirds to scratching cars to spreading disease.
"Felines do receive a gross amount of criticism and hatred, right up there with the dreaded snake," she said. "However, cats are one of God's creatures and have existed alongside humans for 9,500 years and they are, to date, the most popular companion animal in the United States with 90 million of them living in 34 million households."
Burke-Horansky said officials have been trapping and killing cats for 50 years and have never been able to reduce the population. What works better, she said, is an initiative known as TNR, which stands for trap, neuter and return (to their colonies). She said this is the most effective way to prevent the birth of more feral cats.
In Moore County, the births of 5,000 to 10,000 kittens have been prevented through the TNR program carried out by Animal Advocates, she reported. AAMC is a nonprofit that survives on contributions from individuals and concerned groups and grants from foundations and businesses and the work of volunteers.
Burke-Horansky cited a Smithsonian Magazine account reporting that in the past 50 years, 22 military and civilian planes have been destroyed because of bird collisions and in just the last year three small plane-bird collisions killed five people. The article estimated that bird collisions have caused almost $500 million in damages, according to the U.S. Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration.
"Most volunteers in animal rescue love birds as dearly as they love cats, and would never think of calling for birds to be poisoned or shot in and around airports to save lives or money," Burke-Horansky said. "Can't we work together to attack this problem with sensitivity and intelligent resolve?"
Animal Control Director Al Carter, a committee member, said his main concern is prevention of rabies, a fatal disease that can be transmitted from animal to animal and to humans.
The committee was also brought up to date on the latest feral cat spay/neuter blitz carried out through the Aberdeen/ Pinebluff Pet Responsibility Campaign. Animal Advocates, with representation on the Moore County Citizens' Pet Respons-ibility Committee, planned, funded and executed the spay/neuter effort. The Small Animal Emergency Clinic donated use of its facilities in the Town and Country Plaza in Aberdeen.
As a result, 80 cats underwent the surgical procedure, were vaccinated against rabies and released into their colonies. Burke-Horanksy said all of the cats were being cared for by individuals on their own property, although they are not pets.
County Commissioner Jimmy Melton asked County Attorney Misty Leland Randall to review these findings and to make recommendations at the next committee meeting. At the April 29 meeting the committee will also consider a proposed equine shelter provision for the ordinance.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at florence @thepilot.com.
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