Tulare explores T-N-R program to reduce feral cat population

Tulare City Council seeks new trap-neuter-release program to help mitigate the population of feral cats in the city

TULARE – Tulare City Council decided to explore options of implementing a trap-neuter-release program after several complaints came from the community about the number of feral cats in the city. 

At the April 5 city council meeting, Vice Mayor Terry Sayre explained the logistics of the city joining forces with two non-profits, Visalia Feral Cat Coalition (VFCC) and the Friends of the Tulare Animal Shelter, to determine what is required to allow for a trap-neuter-release (TNR) program. By the next city council meeting, Sayre hopes to have all the answers for the city to provide “a clear concept” and total transparency.

“That’s two nonprofits and the city, working together to look at the possibility of reinstating a spay and neutering clinic here at our animal shelter and the coalition then providing the volunteers to go out and trap,” Sayre said. 

Tulare is looking to work with the VFCC organization who has done a great deal of work in Visalia helping to control their feral cat population.  The Sun-Gazette reported in 2020, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with the VFCC to implement a TNR program at Mooney’s Grove park and other communities around Visalia.  The VFCC president Lisa Kucala explained that they allow individuals to handle their own neighborhoods while they handle more of the business sectors of town.

Tulare County has also implemented a similar program. Carrie Monteiro, public information officer with Tulare County Health and Human Services, explained the county deals with animals on a case by case basis, but she admits the TNR program works.

Kucala said that Mooney’s Grove is one of their crowning achievements. She explained the population of cats is controlled at under 20 cats, compared to over 100 cats a few years ago. This is because the coalition was able to trap, neuter and release these cats while continuing to feed them every day. The feeding is a very important aspect of the TNR program they implement according to Kucala.

Kucala is passionate about the work the coalition does. She said the organization is completely volunteer based and duties range from daily feedings of cats to helping out with all day clinics. The coalition has a partnership with Valley Oak SPCA and a few times a month the volunteers help host clinics for individuals to bring cats in to be fixed and receive their shots. Kucala said their clinics range from fixing 20 cats a day to sometimes 40-50. 

VFCC provides traps for community members for a small rental fee to assist in the capturing of neighborhood cats. “We loan them the traps, we teach them what to do, and they can handle their neighborhood,” Kucala said. “[the traps are] usually always out, we have over 100 and as soon as one comes in, it goes out again.” 

Monteiro explained that the TNR program seems to be the most beneficial option, but every situation is different, “we provide services that best fit the actual issue or case at hand, and overall, follow the methods of trap, neuter and return,” Monteiro said. “Those are considered to be the most humane method of reducing nuisance or community cat issues in a particular area.” 

Tulare is still in the beginning stages of implementing a TNR program. Sayre explained at the April 5 meeting, the cost of implementing a TNR program to the city would be minimal. The nonprofits would provide the majority of the labor, at no cost. The only cost Sayre mentioned would be the purchasing of the traps necessary to catch the colonies of cats. At the meeting Sayre said that in her research the traps are around $88 each and can catch around 10 cats at a time. 

Sayre explained that thanks to the Rotary Club, who purchased the equipment, the Tulare animal shelter has what they need to do the spay and neutering clinics. As far as having a veterinarian, Sayre explained the city’s options were to either work with volunteers to transfer the cats to Visalia for services or to contract with a vet to come to Tulare’s facility and perform services.

The volunteers with VFCC do all the work when it comes to the clinics, they simply need the veterinarians to complete the surgeries. “We have all the manpower, we’re willing to stay up all night. We’re willing to go in and do the clinic work…we are willing to help,” Kacula said. 

The city is also talking about making changes to the already existing ordinance to possibly allow for repercussions to individuals who feed and water feral cats. The current ordinance allows for enforcement of the “owners” of “animal nuisances,” but does not define an owner. Which does not claim that an individual who feeds feral cats is considered their owner. 

The existing ordinance does however, require individuals who feed feral cats to submit a signed statement agreeing to spay and neuter the animals as well as regular feedings. This agreement does not require that the individual accept ownership of the cat or cats but would allow for the feral cats to be impounded for activities prohibited in the ordinance such as trespassing, or causing other health and safety issues. 

Kucala said the coalition is more than willing to work with Tulare. “We really want to be the solution for the people and the cats.  With the ‘Vacuum Effect’ the cat population will go down naturally, fixed cats won’t let new cats in and the fixed cats pee won’t stink, they won’t fight or mate, most bad behavior will stop.”

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