BROOKSVILLE The cat trap system will stay in place for Hernando County, at least for now.
County commissioners Tuesday voted 4-1 to retain the 23-year policy of loaning out cat traps to catch feral felines but will initiate steps to make it more effective. That includes increased monitoring of traps loaned out or not returned, making sure neighborhoods are kept free of nuisance cats and keeping tabs on the euthanasia rate of ferals.
The board will revisit the matter at a future date, perhaps considering the trap, neuter and release program adopted by other counties.
County Commissioner Diane Rowden did not support the program and called it unproductive and costly. Most traps come back broken, if they are returned at all.
“We’ve been doing this over, and over and over for years and years and years and it doesn’t seem to be really accomplishing anything,” Rowden said.
Some 280 cats were brought to Hernando County Animal Services (HCAS) last year and the majority euthanized, she said. For each of those cats, there are probably 30 in the wild that are reproducing at a faster rate “so you’re never making any kind of dent in your feral cat population”
“They just keep multiplying out there,” she said.
Joanne Schoch, executive director at Humane Society of the Nature Coast, also spoke against the trap program.
“We have more feral, stray and nuisance cats than ever,” Schoch said.
Lisa Centonze, managing veterinarian of animal services, has called the process of lending out traps “inefficient, costly and inhumane.”
Centonze said people don’t return the devices. On a recent count, there were 35 traps overdue. Some have been checked out from HCAS since 2010, she said.
County Commissioner Wayne Dukes said it’s time to send out letters to those delinquent accounts and find out why they haven’t returned the traps, valued at about $50 each.
Dukes was a vocal supporter of keeping the present system because it works, he said. He believes it goes against nature to capture these feral cats, spay and neuter them and release them back into the wild.
Commissioner Jim Adkins said he wants to allow Centonze and the HCAS staff to analyze each cat that comes in to determine its fate.
Richard Silvani, executive director of PetLuv Nonprofit Spay and Neuter Clinic, assured county commissioners that doing away with the traps is not the first step to a trap-neuter-release program.
“This is simply a recognition that lending traps to people to help them bring cats to Hernando County Animal Services to be killed is costly and ineffective,” Silvani said in a prepared statement to the board. “We are not stopping people from doing that, but we should not spend taxpayer money for that purpose.”
Silvani said neighboring counties have stopped the practice of lending out traps with no adverse results or blowback.
“Does Hernando County need to have the negative press coverage from someone's pet cat being killed through this process before we make the same decision?” he asked.
Silvani urged commissioners to heed the advice of Centonze, managing veterinarian of animal services.
“She has educational, research, and practical experience far beyond any of the rest of us,” Silvani said. “Is it really wise to micromanage and second-guess her by overriding her request on such a minor matter as no longer lending out traps?
The department loans out traps to citizens to capture stray and feral cats, which are then brought to HCAS for impoundment. Most are humanely euthanized at taxpayers' expense.
But the problem is that sometimes feral cats and citizens’ outdoor cats are caught in those traps.