Ulster officials not happy with effort to reduce feral cat population

For Ulster town officials waiting for news about the Ulster County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’s trap, neuter and release (TNR) program to tackle the issue of feral cats in the Sunrise Park and Fox Run neighborhoods, the process has been described as an exercise in frustration.

The town board authorized the trap program in April after a public hearing on a proposed law that would allow cats to be taken to shelters if complaints are received from property owners, and while they unanimously backed the motion, there was some skepticism among councilmen that the process would be successful, especially as a previous TNR effort in the neighborhood had failed.

After securing confirmation from area residents that they would not attempt to feed the cats during the process, the Ulster SPCA began the planned four-week trap, neuter and release program in mid-May, leaving traps on consecutive Tuesdays, with the fourth week pushed back because of severe weather conditions.

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In an e-mail read at a town board meeting last month, UCSPCA Executive Director Adam Saunders suggested asking residents in the affected areas how they felt the TNR program had worked, adding that his own informal survey in the community had deemed the effort a success, save for a heavy concentration of feral cats at a Warren Street residence. At the time, town officials expressed frustration with the lack of detail in Saunders’ report.

By the time the Town Board met again on July 6, that frustration would only grow, as Town Clerk Suzanne Reavy read aloud a letter from Saunders received by the town earlier that evening. The letter broke down each week’s figures based on the number of traps laid, the number of cats caught, where the cats were caught, and whether they were retained or released. In summary, the SPCA laid 11 traps each week, trapping a total of 18 cats, retaining six and re-releasing 12.

Beyond that, town officials said, they were unclear on what the SPCA had done with the cats they trapped, where and how they were re-released, and other details.

“I don’t have too much confidence in this project that’s going on right now,” said Councilman Eric Kitchen.

Saunders this week explained that of the 18 cats that were caught during the four weeks of the TNR project, 17 were spayed or neutered depending upon their gender. The 18th cat had already had the procedure done, as indicated from an ear clip.

“It’s standard procedure among TNR facilities,” Saunders said. “With a male cat you can tell with a quick external exam whether they’ve been neutered or not. With females you have to look for a scar. The ear clip is just an easy way without going any further.”

Saunders added that the six cats that were kept by the SPCA were put up for adoption; the other 12 were not deemed viable adoption candidates and were re-released to the same locations within 48 hours of their trapping.

“It’s just their reaction to humans,” he said. “If they are friendly and handleable, then it’s more likely they were strays as opposed to genuine ferals. Feral cats can’t be safely handled and we can’t put them in people’s houses.”

The reason cats are returned to areas where they were trapped, Saunders explained, is to discourage other feral cats that haven’t been spayed or neutered from moving in. Cats are territorial by nature, he said.

Saunders said a 19th cat was trapped outside of the four week-program supported by the town because a neighbor mentioned having seen cats.

While some town officials have expressed their disappointment with the results of the SPCA’s TNR program, Saunders said judging the merits of the efforts depends upon a variety of factors.

“It’s a tricky question,” he said. “In the lead-up to this we had residents telling us we had from five to 50 cats in the neighborhood. The individuals that were more inclined to be against any sort of re-release program were the ones saying it was closer to 50. The people that were not quite as angry about the presence of the cats were the ones that tended to have a lower estimate.”

Saunders said his pre-TNR field observations indicated a number somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.

“Catching 19 of 25 is a pretty good success story,” he said. “I never saw anything close to 50 [cats.]”

This week, Quigley confessed to having had to divert his attention to other municipal matters.

“I’m dealing with the [reduced assessment at the Hudson Valley] Mall, I’m dealing with police [contract] negotiations,” Quigley said on Monday, July 17. “I wish the cats would go away.”

Quigley added that dealing with the Ulster County SPCA was a big part of the problem.

“The SPCA, they’re clearly a non-profit organization because they don’t act in a professional businesslike manner,” he said. “I don’t have a report from Adam Saunders that I could release, because there’s too many holes in it. I’m waiting to see if the thing goes away, because there’s nothing else I can do. They’re in there trapping, they trap, they capture, they neuter them, they release some of them, they keep some of them. I don’t have accurate counts, I don’t have any confidence in the information that they’ve given me, because there’s too many questions. One week they tell you how many they captured and how many they released, the next week they just tell you how many they captured. And they don’t tell you what they did with them.”

Saunders this week said he was not aware of Quigley’s dissatisfaction with the TNR process. “He hadn’t reached out to me for any clarifications,” Saunders said.

The TNR effort was considered a compromise following hotly debated public hearings earlier this year on proposed legislation that would target cat owners or anyone “harboring any cat” by feeding strays and feral colonies to prohibit them from allowing felines to spray or defecate on private property, cause damage, or behave violently. Cats not vaccinated against rabies would be forbidden. Violations would come with fines of $50 for the first offense, $150 for the second, and $250 for each subsequent violation. The proposed law would also authorize the municipal animal control officer to seize stray cats and hold them for five days, whether identified or not, after which point the cat could be sold or destroyed. Some opponents of the proposed legislation bristled at a scenario that could result in a cat slipping away from its owner, being caught by the town and euthanized.

In April, Quigley said some speakers may have misinterpreted the proposal to indicate that the town was planning a trap-and-kill program. An online petition with over 1,500 signatures entitled Stop Project Kill the Cats: Town of Ulster Local Cat Control Law, organized by a group called Concerned Citizens and Animal Advocates, also pointed to the potential for the destruction of cats.

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“This law as proposed does not say ‘euthanize,’” he said. “That is not a word that’s used in there. ‘Trap-and-kill’ is not mentioned in there.”

The next meeting of the Ulster Town Board is scheduled for Thursday, July 20. At present, the feral cat issue is not listed on the agenda for discussion.

There are 9 comments

  1. Kim Kelly

    Bullshit!!! We did TNR successfully in ONE area and people there WERE happy! 19 cats done!!! One resident was so happy they even made a donation!!!! I was the trapper. I know how many traps were set and the exact locations. People keep seeing the same cats making them believe that there is more then the actual count. Now that they are neutered their patterns will change. Spraying will decrease tremendously as will wondering and fighting. The need for procreation is what drives their behavior. Remove the need, remove the issues’!
    These are living creatures that WE (man) has created this situation. Accountability needs to be put into place. Microchip ALL pets and instill fines for abandonment. Start with the people giving away free pets online, at stores and bulletin boards. See if they are responsible pet owners and fine the ones that are not. Free pets to good homes often end up on the street when the owner tires of the once cute pet. I’m no Bob Parker but the man was right! “Be a responsible pet owner, have your pets spayed or neutered!”

    #stopprojectcatkillings
    #freeroamingcatshaverights

  2. Karen

    TNR is a good tool to reduce population. In the meantime Ovaban prescribed by veterinarian can be put in their food to prevent pregnancies.

  3. Marian Brown

    In Florida there was a fairly recent case of a feral cat with an ear clipped, part of a TNR program, that contracted rabies and exposed a resident, a veterinarian, and three technicians to rabies infection. They all underwent treatment and should be fine. However, the case exposed a known problem with TNR program record keeping and with releasing TNR cats with rabies into the neighborhood, and no accurate record keeping. The vaccination records were not accurately kept and the feral cat colonies were NOT registered or monitored with accurate record keeping. There was no tracking of which cats had or had not been vaccinated, or when, or if they had the one year mandatory booster, and follow up booster and 2 or 3 years. The brand of vaccine was not recorded either. Any feral cat can previously already have rabies at the time it is trapped and neutered, exposing many in the process. Vaccination for rabies will not cure a cat already infected and will not work in a cat that is immune compromised and unable to mount an immune response. Not only is it inhumane to throw cats back out onto the street, but it is a public health hazard. These cats also have extremely high rates (70% or more) of Toxoplasma gondii, which they then shed into the environment. A single cat sheds millions of the parasites oocysts in its feces, contaminating sand, water, watersheds, play areas, food supplies, with oocysts that remain infectious 18 months of longer. The parasite encysts in the human brain and is life long, affecting dopamine, a neurotransmitter. Not only does the parasite cause miscarriages, but also causes brain damage, vision loss, and hearing loss. It is associated with increased rates of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder with psychosis, autism, slowed simple reflex times, and increased self harming behaviors. Feral cats should be humanely euthanized, not dumped back out to the environment to kill other animals and even human fetuses, or doesn’t public health matter anymore?

    1. The Hillbilly Cat

      You can’t outlaw sentimentality. These lousy cats reduce land values to where you don’t pay land taxes anymore because of the Nuisance Factor of living in a gigantic litter box

  4. Geri Romano

    People keep using the rabies and disease excuse. With that mentality we should be picking up deer, skunks, ground hogs, raccoons, squirrels, etc and killing them too. This is clearly just a bias against cats. Humans created the problem and should be held accountable. It didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be fixed overnight. The process will take time especially because local governments won’t fund it. It is funded entirely by donations of generous people who care about cats. I’m sick and tired of the cat killer mentality. They deserve to live like all other creatures. They are domesticated but we forced them into the wild, its no excuse to kill them. TNR works and should be government funded.

  5. Valerie Kane

    Get everyone on the same page …. get rid of all the “red tape” bull— that rescuers have to put up with from the bird loving cat hating Audabon petapuffs!!! Have specific guidelines that all rescuers will follow. Give TNR a real chance!!!
    Face it haters..,you can not rid the world of cats. Accept that and let the TNR people do their thing!!! Give it a chance as you have nothing to lose!!! Obviously your system of trap and kill is NOT working or we would not be in this predicament !! 😡

  6. Debra Mucci

    There seem to be a lot of people out there that have no idea what a feral cat is or how it should be treated. As a person that has recently saved a colony of feral cats, I can assure you that they are worth the effort. Each and everyone of the ferals were TNR’d and each one has since found a loving home with a loving family. I, myself, took in two of them and have found them to be the most grateful, loving cats that I have ever owned. They are super sweet and loving and they appear to be thankful for the chance to live and be loved.

    I want each and everyone of you haters to know that you have no idea what you are talking about. This is the first case of rabies that I have heard about in a feral colony and quite frankly, I don’t believe a word of it. I have been a friend of the ferals since I was a kid, and not once, have I ever had to worry about them spreading disease!!!

    STOP LYING!!!!

    Every single one of you will have to face the Lord on Judgement day and I hope that you can give a better reason for taking a life without thought or concern. Without using the brain that the Lord gave you or attempted to give you. Without caring or compassion, without knowledge or experience.

    Think before you act as from where I stand, I know how wrong you are and how thoughtless your responses and request to take an innocent life is. THINK!!!!! Stop showing your ignorance and please, please, please stop trying to persuade other people in your evil ways!!!

    Try using your head and coming up with a better solution. One that is humane, sensible and caring. Make an effort or butt the Fuck out!!!

  7. Mary Ann Cantella

    When is Project Cat going to be satisfied that they have killed enough feral, stray and probably cats owned by individuals who care for and love them. This project is horrendous and needs to be stopped as soon as possible. Each day that goes by more cats are euthanized. By what authority is Gail of Project Cat justifying her killing of these animals. Every excuse in the book is used as to why we should euthanize these stray (and maybe not stray cats). What a crock all these excuses are. They take one scenario and apply it to all cats. Rabies can happen no matter what we do. If we start killing all potential rabid harbingers what will be have left. Somebody someday will have to answer to this horrendous solution. TNR does work but as someone said before me, this problem did not occur over night nor will it be solved overnight. It is the fault of humans and their irresponsibility. There is a balance in nature and we have always been guilty of interferring with nature causing many more problems. I have tried contacting a legislative official who said it was a problem of the law and that I needed to contact the Sheriffs office. He told me there was an ongoing investigation into Project Cat. I called the Ulster Sheriffs Department who knew nothing of any investigation through there Department. Later on in the conversation he told me that the ASPC was conducting an investigation. He also told me that a previous investigation revealed no evidence of cruelty to animals. (I am sure Project Cat has disposed of all the evidence but what about their records or don’t they keep any). I then called the ASPCA in Ulster and they told me they were unable to tell me if there was or was not an ongoing investigation. And if I had nothing new to contribute I could not be a part of the investigation. The person I spoke to asked me what my concern was as if it wasn’t absolutely obvious. I told her that I was concerned about all the cats that were being euthanized through Project Cat. She then told me should would refer my message to the senior person in charge and he would decide whether of not he would call me. Well of course he did not call me. So tomorrow or later today I will call the head of the ASPCA in Ulster. Last but not least, after I sent an email to Project Cat I received a video from it’s primary person listing a ton of reasons why we need to euthanize. Of course she had a cat sitting on her lap. Staging? Please everyone lets all help to stop the killing.

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