Both sides speaks out on cat sanctuary

By Joel Charron

Feral cats were once again on the hot seat as town council held a public meeting to discuss Amherstburg feline problem.

The topic of discussion heard both sides speak out on whether or not there should be a cat condos to be constructed on the former Nexen Chemicals site, which the town owns.

Nancy Greenaway and Carla Leardi spoke on behalf of the Cat Assistance Team (CAT.) Greenaway agreed that there is a feral cat problem and acknowledged that CAT is aware of a situation that has become a health risk to an expecting mother and residents having to go through rabies shots after being bitten.

She also added that she knows of people have complained of property damage..

Greenaway offered a solution.

“The only successful answer, and it has been proven time and again all over North America and other countries as well, is a program called Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR), or in the case of cats destined for a sanctuary, Trap Neuter Vaccinate and Release,” said Greenaway.

Greenaway added that experts in Ontario and even in Utah, which is running a successful sanctuary using the same methods and circumstances Amherstburg is facing have researched TNR intensively.

“We have taken the time to outline our methods in our TNR program, which include letting the neighborhood know when we are going to begin trapping in their neighborhood, so that they can ensure their pets are kept inside or have collars on or have notified us with a description of their cat to help us ensure we do not inadvertently spay or neuter someone’s pet,” said Greenaway. “Also, the vet checks for a microchip first before anything else is done so having your pet micro-chipped will ensure your cat is returned to you or help you find your cat when it wanders and gets lost.”

Greenaway said that captured cats are spayed or neutered then returned to the area in which they were caught. She believes this will cut down births in a colony and will reduce the number of cats that would take over an open spot in the colony and decrease fighting and spraying.

She also said cats would be introduced to the cat sanctuary as the cats become a “high nuisance” or become endangered.

CAT has been using the TNR method since November 2009 and has fixed over 200 cats.

“We have taken the time to outline our methods in our TNR program, which include letting the neighborhood know when we are going to begin trapping in their neighborhood, so that they can ensure their pets are kept inside or have collars on or have notified us with a description of their can to help us ensure we do not inadvertently spay or neuter someone’s pet,” she said. “Also, the vet checks for a microchip first before anything else is done so having your pet micro-chipped will ensure your cat is returned to you or help you find your cat when it wanders and gets lost.”

Other than some fencing from the town, Greenaway said CAT doesn’t need funding from the town. CAT won $10,000 in the Pepsi Refresh contest to assist in their efforts.

“We have many adult volunteers who have come forward to help with the sanctuary and will have a trained team in place to ensure continuous and diligent care for animals,” said Greenaway. We use a number of different vets; there is not just one whom is responsible for all care of the sanctuary. If someone got injured on town land, there could be potential liability to the town, that’s true. We will have volunteers sign a waiver, accepting their own responsibility in working with the cats and, in truth, the cats will mostly want to stay away from the humans so are not likely a threat.”

ERCA biologist Dan Lebedyk told council that feral cats are frowned upon in natural areas because cats are predatory animals that could threaten surrounding wildlife.

“Placing cats near a natural area could send the wildlife in a state of unbalance,” he said.

Melanie Coulter, executive director of the Windsor-Essex County Humane Society TNR programs, if done correctly, can make a difference however the Humane Society has had problems with putting some in sanctuaries.

“Feral cats are very territorial,” Coulter said.

She also added that the sanctuary could entice cat owners to dump their unwanted cats there.

“We don’t believe this is the best solution for the rest of the town’s cats,” said Coulter.

Natasha Ford, a student in St. Clair College’s vet tech program said the sanctuary would need regular checks by veterinarians. Ford also raised the question about coyotes and wondered if anyone would try to poison the cats.

“Nothing is stopping people from poisoning a colony,” she said.

Tammy Leeming said a feral cat while entering their garage on King St attacked her husband.  Her husband had to miss work to receive rabies shots.

Leeming said she is  scared to let her children play in her own yard.

“I’m scared in my own home. What do I do?” she asked.

CAT member Jennie Lajoie said that the solution is better than what is currently in place and added that taxpayers have the right to not have the cats returned to the areas near their homes.

Windsor resident Mike Gabor said he is operating a successful TNR program in a 20-block radius near his home.

“It can be done. People just don’t try hard enough. It does work,” he said.

Mayor Wayne Hurst said council would decide on the course of action at a future council meeting.

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