ELYRIA — It won’t be the city-funded program of years ago, but Elyria officials are taking steps to bring back some form of a trap, neuter and release strategy to deal with the growing number of feral and stray cats in the city.
This new approach will team Elyria with the Friendship Animal Protective League, longtime proponents of the strategy, as a way of addressing animal overpopulation.
Funding remains the biggest hurdle, but Mayor Holly Brinda and Friendship APL Director Greg Willey said something has to be done. Cats have inundated so many neighborhoods that rough estimates put the feline population at more than 14,000.
“That’s a conservative estimation, but based on the number of complaints the city receives and knowledge of how cats procreate, I would say it is spot on,” Willey said. “Statistically speaking, two cats and their progeny can produce 186,000 cats in just seven years.”
The city effort comes on the heels of two widely publicized stories that had two very different outcomes.
In early June, North Ridgeville Humane Officer Barry Accorti, in response to a homeowner’s request for help in getting rid of stray kittens living in a backyard woodpile, shot five feral kittens. The shooting sparked outrage locally and across the country.
Several weeks later, an elderly Elyria woman issued a plea to have more than a dozen cats rounded up at her home, which was in danger of being condemned because of its condition. The pleas of Annie Hallman brought to light the problem with having animals in a neighborhood that are not spayed and neutered as two cats in her care eventually grew to 15.
“It’s very easy for a cat problem to get out of control,” Brinda said. “We want residents to join us in addressing a problem when there are just two or three cats in a neighborhood before they are faced with 30 to 40 cats.”
Brinda estimates one-third of all complaint calls the city logs are animal-related, with the majority dealing with feral and stray cats.
The Elyria Feral Cat Project will require community involvement, both in time and money.
The city will receive, track and forward tips regarding feral cats to neighborhood volunteers who have committed to educating themselves and executing the trap, neuter and release activities.
Friendship APL will provide traps for volunteers as well as transportation to and from its facility on Murray Ridge Road. In many cases, residents will be required to pay the cost to spay or neuter the cats, typically around $30.
Together, the city and the Friendship APL will market and fundraise for the Elyria Feral Cat Project so funds will be available for those groups that cannot afford to take on the cost. Qualified volunteers will be eligible to apply for the funds to pay for traps, spaying and neutering services, cat food and educational materials. The Friendship APL will run the fund.
The final piece of the program will require that volunteers release the animal back into the neighborhood it was found.
“This is the cheapest, most humane and effective way to deal with the problem,” Willey said. “If a community embraces this in the way it’s designed, in three to five years the cat population will reduce.”
Opponents may question why bringing the animal back is a must, but the very nature of being a feral or stray cat poses enough dangers — cars, illness, harsh winters and other cats — to curb the population.
“Rounding up all of these animals that have done nothing wrong except be born and euthanizing them is not the answer,” Willey said. “This is a manmade problem that will require a manmade solution.”
Brinda, an admitted animal lover who has not seen a stray cat or dog that did not melt her heart, said she knows from experience that animals are just thrown away for someone else to care for. Since last week, a feral cat has taken up shelter in her backyard, and it is not the first.
“A lot of these cats belonged to someone at some point in their lives,” she said. “They don’t start out feral, but are just left behind and abandoned.”
Educating the community on the importance of spaying and neutering their own pets will also be part of the program.
“There are a lot of people who have cats, companion cats that are not spayed or neutered. They let these animals out and inevitably it just feeds this epidemic we have in the city,” Brinda said.
Holly Huff, head of the Cascade-Furnace Neighborhood Block Watch, said four years ago, her street, Phillips Court, had a major cat problem with nearly two dozen cats living between there and Glendale Court. With the help of trap, neuter and release, the number of cats has dropped to four.
“It’s great because I can have a nice front porch and come on my porch without having to get three and four cats off my furniture first,” she said.
Want to help?
The first fundraiser for the Elyria Feral Cat Project will be 7:05 p.m. Aug. 1 at All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon. The Cash for Kitties Night at the Lake Erie Crushers game against the Washington Wild Things will generate proceeds for the fund from all tickets purchased online with a special offer code. For more information, visit https://www.ticketreturn.com/prod2/Buy.asp?EventID=96406.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.