A new tactic being employed by the Fulton County Humane Society may ease the area’s proliferation of stray and feral cats.
Armed with a $1,875 grant from the Parker Hannifin Foundation, the facility at 14720 County Road J has begun “Trap, Neuter, Return” (TNR). The program uses humane traps to round up homeless cats, get them fixed, and return them to their familiar surroundings with a clipped ear that marks them as neutered.
It’s an attempt to reduce the sprawling overpopulation of feral and stray cats in Fulton County while leaving them in the wild to control the rodent population. Fulton County Humane Society Executive Director Jennifer Pershing said TNR is a win-win situation, provided it can be maintained through grants and donations.
“I don’t think it’s going to last too long,” she said of the grant money already received. “We get calls every day about stray cats. People are concerned for them, and want to help them but they don’t know how. It’s overwhelming.”
Delayed from an earlier debut by COVID-19 concerns and training needs, TNR began last week with two days of trapping at a rental property in Pettisville that resulted in seven captures. Two days each week several volunteers will scour Fulton County to identify stray and feral cat colonies, each of which can hold up to 30 cats. The volunteers attract the colony members with food for two days, then withhold a day. Humane traps are set a day later; when a cat enters an open cage for food a door is triggered to close.
The Fulton County Humane Society has six standing appointments each week at Humane Ohio in Toledo to spay or neuter the cats at $29 per procedure. However, also treating the cats for various illnesses can drive up the costs.
Afterward, the cats are returned to the same spot they were captured and set free. They’re identifiable as being fixed by an ear whose tip was removed during the procedure. Pershing said the cats are returned to the open because the Fulton County facility doesn’t have room for all of the trapped stray – abandoned – cats and because feral cats are are never accepted due to being wild, unmanageable, and potentially dangerous.
Volunteers receive training to trap the animals, which includes keeping colonies fed each week so they don’t stray from their locations, making the process easier. The volunteers contribute to the program by using their own cars and gas.
Pershing said the Fulton County Humane Society currently owns four large traps, one medium trap, and four smaller traps, the latter used mainly to catch kittens. She said the limited grant funds will likely diminish quickly, leaving a need for private and business donations to continue the program. Donations of humane traps, carriers, and food will also be necessary.
A form will be included on the humane society’s website – found at fultoncountyoh.com – promoting “Spay It Forward,” a continuing fundraiser to gather sponsors for TNR. The non-profit organization will also continue searching for grant money and will likely hold fundraisers, but Pershing said without the community’s support TNR will fail.
“The number of stray cats in this county is overwhelming, and a number of them are unhealthy,” she said. “I think it’s one of the impacts we can make because we’ll be reducing the suffering of all these stray cats.”
Tracy Wanner, Fulton County Humane Society treasurer, said TNR is but one version of identical programs operating throughout the country.
“We can get 10 phone calls every day for strays and ferals. There’s no place we could take them or put them,” she said. “So the best we can offer is to trap them, get them fixed, put them back out. It’s going slow, but at least it’s going. It’s starting.”
Wanner said donations can be made at the facility, by mail or by PayPal. She said they’ll be vital to maintaining TNR, since dipping into the organization’s operational funds would deplete them completely.
“It’s extremely important,” she said.
Pershing said the frustration county residents feel over the nuisance of stray and feral cats is understandable, and the felines’ population can be reduced by TNR if the public is willing to support the program. “I’m hopeful,” she said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.