Trap-Neuter-Release Program Revisited
In 2015, the Wausau City Council voted down a proposal to allow a trap-neuter-release program for feral cats. However, the Public Health & Safety Committee is bringing it back for one more vote before the end of the 2104-2016 legislative term. With the measure back on the agenda, council members are being lobbied with a form letter. Alderman Winters is responding to each letter with a letter stating his reasons for voting no. See the the section on trap-neuter-release at the bottom of this page for more information.
Emotions can run high in talking about people’s pets. Everyone professes to want the best for our fury friends. However, getting everyone to agree on one course of action is not always easy.
Starting in 2012, Alderman Winters was an early supporter of policies to improve conditions for pets in our community. He sponsored a resolution to set pet license fees aside in a segregated fund. Now, license revenues can only be used to support pet-related programs and cannot be used on any other city service. In addition, he authored the legislation that created the current humane officer position that is shared between the Wausau Police Department and Everest Metro Police Department.
Animal control and sheltering is potentially a very large and costly issue. In a city the size of Wausau, with about 16,500 households, national averages would suggest there are approximately 11,000 dogs and 12,000 cats.
Sheltering costs for cats was initially cut from the 2016 budget. However, funds for sheltering cats was restored by the council just before the budget passed.
Whether you think you agree or disagree with the 2016 pet licensing structure, a review of the policy papers that lead to the council’s decision would be worthwhile. The following are key pieces of information that went into the decision:
- Current policy is insufficent. The shelter is full, and animal complaints are taking too much police time (PDF).
- The city’s bills for taking animals to the shelter exceed revenue from all forms of pet licenses and counter service charges (PDF).
- Marathon County is finding that its animal control efforts are also insufficient (Wausau Daily Herald, August 1, 2015, pp. 1A & 5A).
- Communities across the U.S. charge a wide range of fees for spayed and neutered pets and unaltered pets. Wausau’s 2015 license fees for pets are significantly below the national averagers.
- The council chose one of two proposed fee structures based on national norms and designed (1) to encourage owners to spay or neuter their pets and (2) to make lost pets easier to return to their homes by micro-chipping (PDF).
At the end of the day, we, as a community, need our pet owners to license, vaccinate and micro-chip their pets. We also need the majority of owners to have their pets spayed or neutered. To allow people to do otherwise poses public health risks, costs the public treasury money and leads to countless unnecessary shelter stays and euthanasia events.
Pet ownership costs money. Attached is an article from the City Pages (PDF). It discusses the financial commitment of pet ownership. Note that license fees are only a small portion of of the costs–in most cases 2%-to-4%. The article references information at ASPCA.org that can be used to research the annual estimated cost of owning different breeds of animals. Anyone considering purchasing a pet should make sure he or she iecauss ready for a long-term financial commitment.
Trap-Neuter-Release Programs for Stray Cats
Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) was a program aimed at controlling the number of ferral cats in Wausau’s neighborhoods. The idea was to have cat’s trapped, neutered and released back to their neighborhood, unable to breed. Volunteers also planned to put out food for the wild cats and support the health of the animals in the colony. The theory advanced was that the colony’s population would decline over time due to lack of reproduction among the sterile animals. The appeal of the idea was that it would engage community volunteers in dealing with the ferral cat problem and keep cats out of the shelter.
Wausau’s Public Health & Safety Commission, chaired by Lisa Rasmussen, spent nearly a year exploring this program and re-writing ordinances to make it possible. In the end, it proved not to be feasible, mostly because no neighborhood wanted to be the site were cats are released or home to a supported ferral cat colony (See Wausau Daily Herald article for more information). The city council rejected the Public Health & Safety Committee’s proposal for a pilot program on the near west side.
Moreover, while the program had strong proponents, all the reputable, peer-reviewed literature so far has suggested that it will not work. (See letter). The Center for Investigative Journalism has done serveral pieces on this topic. This report was produced for the PBS Newshour (link). They also produced this piece on what to do about feral cats (link) and this piece (link) about the caveats of feral cat programs.
Authorized and paid for by Friends of Keene Winters
Greg Strasser, Treasurer