PAWS, humane society say problem could be worse

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

(Postmedia Network file photo)

(Postmedia Network file photo)


An international animal rights group has taken Norfolk County to task for its policy on feral cats.

In a three-page letter, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says the county’s trap, neuter and release program is cruel and an ineffective way of reducing feral populations.

“Fact is that trap, neuter and release does nothing to protect cats from enduring short, miserable lives (and deaths) on the streets and is in direct conflict with the mission of animal care and control as well as public-health agencies,” Teresa Chagrin, an animal care and control specialist in PETA’s Cruelty Investigations Department in the United States, said in a letter to the county June 20.

“Homeless cat populations can be effectively and humanely reduced or prevented from becoming established in the first place with sensible laws that require owners to spay and neuter their companion cats and keep them indoors unless closely supervised or securely confined to a safe, outdoor enclosure.”

After reading the letter, Mayor Charlie Luke wondered if PETA truly understands what Norfolk is trying to accomplish with its trap, neuter and release program.

Luke said the county’s primary goal is to provide a mechanism for Norfolk residents when their property or neighbourhood is being overrun with cats.

In partnership with Norfolk PAWS (Providing Animal Welfare Services) and the Simcoe & District Humane Society, the county will collect wild cats in areas where they are a nuisance and house them in managed colonies if they can’t be domesticated.

Friday, Luke said the county’s objective is to provide residents with a cat control mechanism similar to what municipalities offer for dogs.

“PETA is telling council ‘Don’t be fooled – you’re not going to solve anything with this program,’” Luke said. “But we know that. At least the animals are going back to their previous situation without the ability to reproduce.”

Cathie Hosken, shelter manager for the Simcoe humane society, echoed similar sentiments. Trap, neuter and release programs, she said, can prevent a population of 10,000 feral cats from exploding to 50,000 cats in a short period of time.

The program is humane, Hosken said, in that trapped cats are vaccinated for a host of illnesses and adopted out to responsible owners if they can be socialized.

Cats that can’t be domesticated are released to managed colonies where they are fed and receive veterinary care if disease breaks out.

That said, Hosken agrees that mandatory spay-and-neuter programs coupled with laws against cats roaming at large would go far toward solving the problem.

Hosken says it would be difficult and expensive to enforce these provisions in Norfolk. She said the county has a long history of cats roaming free and breeding uncontrolled in agricultural areas.

PAWS spokesperson Sandi Fettes of Simcoe says Norfolk wouldn’t have a feral cat problem if responsible ownership were the standard.

“It’s awful that people threw them into the wild in the first place,” Fettes said Friday. “We’re trying to manage the population so it doesn’t explode.

“That’s the root of the problem – the people who throw these cats into the wild in the first place.”