BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission on Tuesday voted to override the recommendation of their Animal Services veterinarian, who had urged ending the practice of loaning out traps to capture stray cats.
Veterinarian Lisa Centonze told commissioners in two previous meetings that the trapping program didn't work, that it was expensive and that it was forcing employees to euthanize hundreds of feral cats each year.
The commission instead sided with Commissioner Wayne Dukes, who has been adamantly opposed to ending the loaner trap program, which he sees as leading to the trap, neuter, return (TNR) approach used in several nearby counties. That includes Hillsborough, which approved a pilot TNR program last week.
In such programs, volunteers trap stray cats, take them to be neutered and vaccinated, and then return them to the wild. Proponents say it eventually curbs populations by cutting reproduction rates. Opponents say the cats spread disease and kill wildlife.
The commission was supposed to debate whether to continue loaning the traps last week.
But before the board could have a full discussion of the issue or hear from citizens, Chairman Dave Russell moved the topic to this week's meeting. Since then, Centonze, Dukes and others discussed how to solve some of the issues in the trapping program.
Brian Malmberg, assistant administrator for operations, described changes to the trap loaning program to make it more efficient, including charging a higher deposit to rent a trap.
Commissioner Diane Rowden protested saying the commission had not discussed the issues yet. She argued that the program is not effective. While 208 cats were euthanized last year, she said there are probably 30 times that number still in the wild reproducing at a rapid rate.
Joanne Schoch, executive director of the Humane Society of the Nature Coast, urged commissioners to listen to Centonze. Trapping and destroying feral cats for the last 23 years hasn't shrunk the population, Schoch said.
Commissioners voted 4-1 to implement the new rules for loaning traps with Rowden casting the sole "no" vote.