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Monday Quick Hits: How to — and how not to — care for unwanted animals in Hernando County

What a relief...

to see that a period of neglect and disorganization at Hernando County Animal Services appears to be over.

In case you missed it, Times writer Barb Behrendt wrote on Sunday (tinyurl.com/a2m8lry) that the office is now in the hands of a veterinarian, Lisa Centonze, with an unusual background — bachelor's degree in history from Princeton University, a stint in the Peace Corps. And that she seems to be running things smoothly and with compassion.

That's a contrast from 10 months ago, when controversy over Zeus — an adoptable young dog that was immediately euthanized — exposed the place as chaotic and underfunded.

How we care for defenseless animals says a good deal about us as a county. It's our duty to spend the money to treat them decently.

Within limits, that is.

The Times published a story on the same page about Joanne Schoch's misguided idea to push a trap-neuter-release program for Hernando County.

In case that term is new to you, it works like so: You take community resources — money and the energy of volunteers — that could be going to a hundred worthwhile causes and devote to them to trapping destructive pests, neutering them, and then placing them back into the environment where they can cause the most destruction.

But they are not pests, you might say, they are pets. And so were the Burmese pythons that were released into Everglades National Park and have now consumed just about every small mammal within its boundaries. I don't think anybody thinks it would be an act of compassion to start neutering them and returning them to the wild.

Is that comparison a stretch? Only in that pythons aren't cute and furry. As the New York Times reported last month, cats in the United States kill about 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion small mammals a year.

"The estimated kill rates are two to four times higher than mortality figures previously bandied about, and position the domestic cat as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation," the Times wrote, citing a new study by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The research included house cats that are allowed to roam outdoors as well as feral cats, which other studies have shown are especially destructive because they have no reliable source of food and often must kill to eat.

I'm surprised and disappointed that Schoch, who has gained a lot of credibility in her years as executive director of the Humane Society of the Nature Coast, could either be unaware of this research or willing to disregard it.

Cats are wonderful in their place — in a home with a caring family. And it's great that people like Schoch do all they can to find them these kinds of homes.

But if they can't find the cats a place, we have no choice to put them down humanely. That's because the only alternative is putting them in other animals' rightful place, the wild.

Yes, I understand that it isn't the cats' fault that they didn't wind up with a caring owner, and I feel bad about that. But I feel a lot worse about the billions of slaughtered wild creatures.

If you go the forum on this subject, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Palace Grand maybe you can ask all the animal lovers on the panel why their love doesn't extend to robins and chipmunks.

Monday Quick Hits: How to — and how not to — care for unwanted animals in Hernando County 02/25/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 25, 2013 10:40am]

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