Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hearing set on controversial cat-neutering plan in Hillsborough

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Animal Services may be in a bit of upheaval with the reassignment of its director this week.

But that didn't stop county commissioners from moving forward Wednesday with perhaps the most controversial component of their efforts to lower the kill rate at the animal shelter.

Commissioners voted 6-1 to hold a public hearing Dec. 18 on an ordinance to allow the county to trap stray cats, spay or neuter them, then release them near where they were picked up. Commissioner Victor Crist was the lone opposing vote.

Cats are euthanized at far greater rates than dogs at most public animal shelters. "Trap, neuter, release" or "community cats," as the practice is sometimes known, is a centerpiece nationally of an effort to get shelters to kill fewer animals.

The idea is that sterilized cats won't continue adding to the already large number of free-ranging felines. Over time, supporters say, that should result in fewer loose cats and, eventually, fewer animals euthanized each year.

Critics, including several veterinarians, have said the approach is hardly humane or healthy. Many cats released into the environment live short, often disease-prone lives and face risks from predators, starvation and cars, they said. They can spread disease to humans and are blamed for killing scores of birds and other wildlife, they contend.

Ian Hallett, a proponent of the trapping program as well as other significant changes at Animal Services, was moved out of heading the department and into a job in the parks department this week by County Administrator Mike Merrill. The move followed months of complaints against him from various sectors in the animal welfare community as disease popped up at the shelter and its veterinarians defected.

Commissioner Ken Hagan, who has been a leading advocate of lowering the county's kill rate, noted the board voted twice this year to support the pilot program. He urged his colleagues to press on.

"I believe enough cats have already died due to our inaction," Hagan said.

But the debate raged anew from speakers for and against the program.

Veterinarians in particular object to the practice of releasing feral cats into the wild, saying they represent a public health risk and allow people to neglect animals or fail to take responsibility for their welfare. Some suggested that the plan to implement the program was not given adequate public input, particularly from veterinarians or a citizen panel that reviews changes to county laws pertaining to animal welfare.

"Responsibility. With this one word you can help focus an important issue being placed before you today," said Michael Haworth, chairman of the county's animal advisory committee. "Who's responsible for feral cats? The ordinance change that's being proposed deliberately releases those people that trap, neuter and release feral cats into our community from responsibility."

Jeanine Cohen, with the group Cat Crusaders, countered that the plan has been vetted for months with input from all sectors of the animal welfare community. In the meantime, thousands of cats have been euthanized at the county's shelter because of health concerns that are unfounded, she said.

"Our conspiracy is to want to save more healthy cats," Cohen said.

Hearing set on controversial cat-neutering plan in Hillsborough 12/04/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 10:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. What you need to know for Monday, Sept. 25

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Craig Butz, executive director of Pepin Academies and former professional hockey player, died in a crash with a boat Saturday. His daughter Teagan, 4, remained in critical condition Sunday afternoon. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   TIMES, 2013]
  2. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash

    Accidents

    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  3. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  4. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  5. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle

    World

    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.