Animal shelters and rescue groups are working together to put together a pilot plan for Pinellas County's first official program for feral cats.
At a workshop last week, Pinellas commissioners agreed to take a look at a business plan for a non-profit group called Meow Now to administer a Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release pilot program for a year.
"In virtually every community where they are implementing the TNVR program, they are seeing a reduction of cats coming into the shelters in that community," said Martha Boden, CEO of SPCA Tampa Bay. "It doesn't happen instantly, it takes time to reach critical mass."
Meow Now is being organized by the SPCA Tampa Bay, the Human Society, and three other community partners.
All funding and care of animals would be handled by these groups. It would take hundreds of volunteers to locate the cat colonies, trap the animals, and then return them to the same area.
The county would have to agree to relax ordinances against feeding animals outdoors and releasing animals into the community, that presently prevent the practice.
Several individuals have already been working under the radar, trapping feral cats and having them neutered at low cost clinics.
Pamela Borres is the director of the SPOT clinic in Pinellas Park. She routinely takes in anywhere from 1 to 8 feral cats on a daily basis for $25 sterilization and vaccination. Individuals rent out traps provided at the clinic, and then bring the feral cats in to be sterilized. Borres is glad the county is considering a change in its policy.
"Once it becomes legal, then doors open for grants and funding to help pay for the spaying and neutering. If a person has 10 or 15 feral cats near their property, often they can't afford to bring them all in before they start multiplying," said Borres.
Cats can begin reproducing at 6 months, and can deliver three litters a year, so the population multiplies quickly if left unchecked.
Meow Now hopes to put it's business plan before the County Commission for approval in November. If approved, the pilot program would begin by the end of the year.
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