WILMINGTON — While campaigning for re-election last fall, Wilmington City Councilwoman Randi Milburn heard complaints about homeless cats that are not tame — often called “feral” cats.
Chairperson of city council’s Judiciary Committee, Milburn made feral cats an agenda item for the committee’s Wednesday meeting.
She reported she had researched the matter and looked into a variety of legislative things municipalities have done to address feral cat populations.
In her opinion, the legislative possibilities come down to one prospect: a trap, neuter and release program.
“Honestly, that seems to be the best option,” Milburn said.
The vast majority of feral cats aren’t spayed or neutered, she said, and hence an area’s feral cat population gets larger.
The city’s best course of action now, she feels, is to work with the two local humane societies “and see what we can come up with as far as a trap, neuter, release program.”
During the discussion, Wilmington Mayor John Stanforth asked how such a program would be paid for.
Milburn said the city doesn’t have the money to do it. Councilwoman and Judiciary Committee member Kelsey Swindler then said she is sure the humane societies don’t have the funds either.
“That’s the hard part,” said Swindler, adding, “It’s [trap, neuter, release] a great idea.”
Clerk of Council Marian Miller, who also is executive assistant to the mayor, said grant money is available for such programs, but the competition for funds is “always hard fought.”
She said when she worked in Valdosta, Georgia, she volunteered at a humane society which had “a very good grant” to conduct a trap, neuter and release program.
The program was very effective in Valdosta, according to Miller. People there had come to acknowledge they could not adopt out all of those animals, she said.
Both humane societies here are always at their maximum for harboring cats, city officials said.
Swindler said a trap, neuter and release program is a great compromise that people seem to agree on, whether they love cats or not.
She wondered whether it would make a humane society’s grant application stronger “to have on paper the support of the city.”
Swindler also mentioned education — an “ability to shine a light on the issue, and hopefully educate homeowners and help them be more involved in this program.”
Current city law states, “No owner or keeper of a dog, cat or other domestic animal shall abandon such animal.” Feral cats often are abandoned cats, or their descendents.
According to the Neighborhood Cats website, a feral cat is “unsocialized and tends to be fearful of people and keep a distance. Ferals are most often found living outdoors in groups known as colonies.”
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.