Pilot program corrals cats at Mooney Grove

Board of Supervisors extend agreement with Visalia Feral Cat Coalition to continue trap, neuter, return program at Mooney Grove Park

The Sun-Gazette

VISALIA – A pilot program to humanely control feral cats at Mooney Grove Park has been extended for five more years.

At its March 3 meeting, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors approved a new agreement with the Visalia Feral Cat Coalition (VFCC) to trap, neuter and return (TNR) feral cats, also known as community cats, at Mooney Grove Park. The agreement is for three years, with an option to add up to two more years. Since 2016, the VFCC has been responsible for all activities associated with the TNR program, including trapping, transportation, veterinarian services, sterilization, and flea abatement for feral cats at the county’s oldest park.

Brook Sisk, assistant director of the county’s General Services Agency, said the VFCC’s work has reduced the number of feral cats at Mooney Grove from over 100 in 2016, to under 20 today. VFCC board members Diane Dunbar and Lisa Kucala said just in the last year their volunteers helped spay/neuter over 1,700 cats, placed 200 kittens up for adoption, and prevented the cat population from exceeding a manageable number of about 20 adult cats through daily feedings, flea treatments and monitoring. 

“This is clearly a subject which you are passionate about,” Chairman Pete Vander Poel said. “One thing that was absolutely a problem is now not so much of one.”

Many municipal animal control agencies, such as the city of Visalia, have also made the shift to TNR programs because they are more successful at controlling the population than relocating to other areas or euthanizing. 

“It is a fact that the removal and killing of outdoor cats is never ending and futile,” the VFCC’s website says.

The new agreement will allow VFCC to implement three new pilot programs to prevent cats from making homes near park attractions. One program will place cat housing structures in mutually agreed locations around the park away from areas of frequent public use. They will be camouflaged, hidden, or placed in such a way as to avoid being visible to a casual observer. Another program will identify cats which reside inside or amongst museum structures or in unsafe location. If feasible, these cats will be relocated to another, mutually agreed-upon area in the park. And lastly, another pilot program will attempt to devise ways to deter cats from areas of the park where they might damage park resources or interfere with public enjoyment of the park, such as the museum grounds.

“This is important for health of the cat and there will be less damages to the structures in the park,” Dunbar said.

Supervisor Amy Shuklian called the vote a “no brainer” and said the only downside was that the cats could not help control the populations of gophers or geese at Mooney Grove. 

Shuklian motioned to approve the new agreement, it was seconded by Supervisor Eddie Valoer and approved 5-0.

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