TAMPA — The public will get perhaps its last say Wednesday over a controversial proposal to trap stray cats, neuter them, then re-release them into neighborhoods in Hillsborough County.
Hillsborough County commissioners are scheduled to hold a final public hearing on the so-called trap-neuter-release program championed by groups seeking to lower the kill rate of cats at the county's shelter. The hearing takes place at 2 p.m. Wednesday at County Center, 601 E Kennedy Blvd.
Trap-neuter-release, also known as community cats, is already practiced by some private rescue groups locally and by other public shelters nationally. This would be the first time Hillsborough County government got in on the practice.
The idea has not been received well by some welfare advocates and veterinary groups, who say it can lead to the spread of disease among cats and, in some cases, to humans. They also contend it encourages irresponsible behavior by pet owners and can lead to short, miserable lives for the animals themselves as they are ravaged by disease, wounded by other animals or hit by cars.
Commissioners have taken previous votes to pursue the practice, despite those concerns, with only Commissioner Victor Crist voting no.
Hillsborough County's shelter has been undertaking efforts to sharply reduce the number of unwanted animals killed there each year with increased promotion of adoptions and traditional spay-neuter programs. It has faced challenges, as more animals getting held longer has resulted in disease outbreaks.
Employees of the shelter, including two vets who quit, have complained about management of the shelter, as have some volunteers. County Administrator Mike Merrill transferred its most recent director earlier this month to another department.