New Summit County program allows residents to create community cat colonies
Summit County Council has given the green light to a pilot program that will allow residents to care for wild and stray “community cats” in their neighborhoods.
Local animal rescue groups Nuzzles and Co. and the Humane Society of Utah came up with the program as a humane way to manage these cat populations, as well as protect the community from unsterilized and unvaccinated cats. Summit County receives an average of about 380 cats per year at its shelter from residents who trap or return them or animal control traps, which are placed at the owner’s request, according to a staff report.
The Utah legislature passed a bill in 2011 allowing counties and cities to allow community cats. The Summit County code had to be changed before the pilot program could be implemented.
Under the program, free-range unowned cats that live outdoors have godparents who are responsible for spaying them, rabies vaccinations, and ear tips. Sponsors can be individuals or an animal rescue group or a humanitarian company.
Ear stamping involves removing about a quarter of an inch from the tip of a cats left ear while they are anesthetized for sterilization. The procedure allows animal control officers to remotely tell that cats have been fixed and vaccinated.
The cats are then returned to where they were originally found and a community cat sitter provides food, water, and shelter for a feline or a colony of them.
Supporters of community cat programs say they are helping to keep euthanasia rates low, reducing the number of incoming cats and weighing down shelters and reducing the outdoor cat population, according to a presentation made earlier this year by county staff. The downsides include the difficulty of administering booster vaccines against rabies and bird killing, and the threat posed by cats to protected wildlife.
The Summit County program requires that caregivers, who are not considered the owners of the animals, pay a permit fee of $ 50 to have a cat colony. Anyone with a history of animal abuse or neglect is prohibited from sponsoring or looking after a cat in the community.
The pilot program will be in effect until December 31, 2023.
“We will collect data through this program and then come back before it expires and see what you want to do next based on what we have learned from this experience,” Deputy County Director Janna Young told council members. .
The program was approved by a 4-0 vote at a meeting on Nov. 17, with board chairman Glenn Wright abstaining.
Wright said he was not against the program, but was unable to attend an earlier working session when the program was discussed in much more detail.
“I didn’t want to vote against,” he said. “I am certainly ready to accept the pilot plan to see how it works. “
Neighbors will be notified of any proposed cat colony within 1000 feet of their property, but their approval is not required. However, they can appeal a decision of the animal control director to grant a permit for a certain location to the county director.
The Humane Society of the United States says tens of millions of ownerless cats in the country live outdoors and generally depend on people for food and shelter. About 2% of these wild and stray felines have been spayed or neutered, according to the company.
To view the staff report on the program, Click here.