Nov. 12 hearing on feral cats

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Oct. 29 was National Cat Day, and Kearny feline lovers were purring with delight over the town’s move to implement a TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) policy for feral cats – something advocates been clamoring about for months.

It’s not quite official yet: The mayor and Town Council will hold a public hearing on the ordinance, introduced Wednesday, that details how the program will work at their next meeting on Nov. 12 but no roadblocks are anticipated.

The policy, which, Mayor Alberto Santos heralded as a potential “model for the state” if adopted, allows for “feral cat colonies” and designates citizen “caregivers” to “maintain them” as per the rules set out in the ordinance.

Here’s how the policy would work:

The town’s animal control provider, the Bergen County Animal Shelter, would train caregivers in caring for the cat colony, help resolve any complaints over the colony’s operation and assume costs associated with the TNR program, such as traps, vaccinations, neutering/spaying. (Those expenses would be included as part of the town’s roughly $92,000 a year contract with the BCAS, Santos told The Observer.)

A TNR Committee, whose members are to be appointed by the mayor and council, would use standardized forms to “maintain records provided by colony caregivers on the registration, size and location of the colonies, as well as the vaccination and spay/neuter records of cats in the caregiver colonies.”

The TNR Committee would also report to the town Health Department, every six months, with help from colony caregivers, on the “number and gender of all cats in the colony, the number of cats who died [or left the colony], the number of kittens born to colony cats and their disposition, the number of cats and kittens spayed and neutered and the number of cats and kittens placed in permanent homes….”

Volunteer feral cat caregivers would register a colony with the TNR Committee, have the colony vaccinated against rabies and get “all cats” in the colony spayed/ neutered; maintain a digital photo record of all colony cats and a record of cats having been “vaccinated, spayed/ neutered and ear tipped [to identify cats that may roam from the colony]” and provide food and water during daylight hours and winter shelter for colony cats.

They would also “keep a record of any illnesses or unusual behavior” observed in any colony cats, secure medical care for ill cats, and secure “written approval” of any property owner “to which the caregiver requires access to provide colony care.”

They would also be charged with placing any kittens born to a colony cat in “homes, foster homes, or with animal shelters, rescue organizations or veterinary offices for the purpose of subsequent permanent placement.”

The town would reserve its right to remove from a colony any cat that hasn’t received a rabies shot and is showing signs of the disease or any cat “creating a nuisance” unless the caregiver can resolve the issue within 60 days. The town could shut down a colony for failure to comply with the regulations. It could also “replace or remove” a caregiver for failure to comply with the rules. If the town gets a nuisance complaint about an ear-tipped feral colony cat, the Health Department can remove the cat if the TNR Committee can’t resolve the issue within 60 days. Sick or injured cats or cats deemed a public threat may also be removed under certain time conditions.

“Not later than Jan. 31, 2016,” the town is to evaluate the policy to determine whether to continue, modify or terminate it.

Asked who would sit on the TNR Committee, Santos said the council would be asked to deal with that shortly by acting a resolution for the appointment of between three and five nonsalaried members who, he added, would likely include TNR advocates Leonard Twist and Kathy DeRay. “We would probably leave it to them to choose the others,” he said.

The mayor credited Flanders attorney Michelle Lerner, legal adviser for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, for help in drafting the ordinance.

After the council voted to introduce the ordinance, Twist and DeRay lauded the lawmakers and Health Director Ken Pincus for their efforts. “You put your nose to the grindstone on this one,” said Twist. “We’ll make it work.”

Added DeRay: “You’ve turned Kearny from a ‘trap and kill’ community to a ‘trap and no kill.’ ’’



PHOTO: Wikipedia



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