DAYTON — During last week’s meeting, Dayton Town Council revisited their long-standing discussion about the town’s feral cat population. Residents have recently expressed concern about decimation of wildlife populations, as well as health hazards associated with feral cats. A restraint ordinance like the one for dogs has been proposed.
Council has tabled their discussion until further information can be gathered.
Colonies Still in Town
This is not the first time Dayton Town Council has discussed this topic.
In 2009, a property owner complained about a feral cat colony supported by other area residents in the College Street neighborhood. After attempting to protect her property without success, the resident began paying an animal nuisance company to trap and remove the animals. She did this with the support of the animal control division of Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office, which does not deal with feral cat populations.
The trapped animals were taken to the Harrisonburg-Rockingham SPCA, where they were impounded.
The center’s policy, under the Virginia Animal Welfare Law, is to hold feral cats for three days, strays without identification for seven days and cats with identification for 12 days, according to Executive Director Anne Anderson. After that, cats suitable for adoption are kept at the shelter or placed in foster homes. Cats that are unsuitable for adoption are euthanized.
At that time, after hearing from several residents in a prolonged and heated debate, council took no action.
Residents were asked to work out the problem among themselves.
About a year ago, this topic was revisited, at which time Town Attorney Jason Ham made a presentation and recommnded that an ordinance be passed.
The main problem, he said, was determining which cats were owned and which were feral. In order to do so, council would need to pass an ordinance requiring that cats be tagged, he said. Cats without tags could then be trapped or otherwise secured and delivered to the SPCA.
Council took no action on Ham’s recommendation.
At last week’s meeting, Ham again advised of his recommendation.
A ensuing discussion included the issue of which town employees would be involved in licensing, trapping, transporting or otherwise dealing with the feral cat population.
Mayor Charles Long then suggested that council members conduct their own research on this topic. Councilman Jeff McNeal suggested that staff be asked to make further recommendations. Police Chief Donnie Conley offered to find out how other municipalities have approached the problem.
The issue was tabled.
Feral cat colony management strategies vary from eradication to TNR, which stands for trap, neuter and re-release. The topic is a hot one for organizations like the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Animal Control Association, the Humane Society of the United States and various animal rights organizations.
According to Anderson, the SPCA “as an organization chooses not to participate in TNR programs.”
Sometimes release of the animal does not benefit its health and welfare, she added.
A local animal rights organization, Cat’s Cradle, offers help and support for the TNR strategy, which seeks to limit population growth by attrition rather than euthanasia.
In 2010, Cat’s Cradle received a $53,750 grant from PetSmart Charities to subsidize about 1,200 spay-neuter surgeries on free-roaming cats in Elkton.