Commission urged to reduce feral cat population
More than two years ago, Pinellas County commissioners accepted a task force's recommendations to curb the number of feral cats roaming the community.
The ideas sat. Not the cats.
It's tough to count, but county Animal Services estimates that up to 200,000 feral cats live in Pinellas. That's double the number of so-called unsociable, free-roaming felines cited in 2008-09.
Animal and wildlife advocates pressed commissioners Tuesday to take action to reduce the number of feral cats, though they disagreed on ways to do it.
The commission told Animal Services department staff to work with advocates and come up with suggestions within 90 days. Commissioners were particularly interested in creating a low-cost, high-volume program for spaying and neutering cats.
The original panel recommended more education campaigns and improving spay and neuter services, and running the county's mobile animal unit with nonprofit groups. Instead, budget cuts have reduced Animal Services staff and programs — and have left the mobile unit parked and unused.
Last year, the county took in 10,310 cats, euthanizing 6,190 and adopting out the rest. Of the euthanized cats, about 1,700 were feral — a tiny portion of the total feral population.
"It's not a perception problem, it is a real problem," said Will Davis, interim director of Animal Services.
The original panel also recommended the county avoid involving itself in emotional debate about trap-neuter-release programs for feral cats. Those efforts often win acclaim from cat advocates, because they sterilize the animals to stop them from reproducing but put them back in the community.
Animal advocates pressed commissioners Tuesday and in recent emails to support a similar program in Pinellas.