Hernando County needs to talk about what to do with stray cats throughout the county, according to Dr. Lisa Centonze. But now is not the right time.
The Hernando County Animal Services veterinarian, who has been on the job just over three months, was not at the Hernando County Commission meeting Tuesday when commissioners voted 4-1 to continue loaning out cat traps to residents.
Centonze is now performing on-site surgeries in the new surgical suite and managing the HCAS team. In the past, Centonze has called the trapping of feral cats “inefficient, costly and inhumane.”
Commissioner Diane Rowden cast the lone dissenting vote, and said loaning out traps hasn’t significantly reduced the number of feral cats in the county. Commissioner Wayne Dukes suggested the county send delinquency letters to residents who haven’t returned the traps, and that trap, neuter, release is an unnatural practice.
Commissioner Jim Adkins would like to see each stray and feral cat evaluated at Hernando County Animals Services before a decision is made regarding euthanasia.
When reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Centonze said she’ll do what her “bosses want me to do,” adding the county needs to talk about community cat control in the near future.
Hernando County has loaned cat traps out for 23 years. Last year, about 280 stray or feral cats were turned over to HCAS, according to Rowden, and most were euthanized.
At times, outdoor cats are caught in the traps, which are intended to lure in feral cats enticed by food.
HCAS sees a steady flow of stray and feral cats coming in. Centonze called the environment “rough” for a cat who has only known life in the wild, and often, euthanasia is the only option for adult feral cats.
Citrus County loans cat traps out to residents for a $50 deposit, but has a “robust” trap-neuter-release program, according to Centonze, so many cats that come in are not feral. On May 1, Hillsborough County commissioners approved a two-year TNR pilot program for vaccinating and fixing feral cats in the county, and releasing them, in an effort to reduce euthanizations and the number of feral kittens being born.
Centonze said she doesn’t think the county ought to fund a local TNR program, but that local government ought to “decriminalize” the efforts of residents to humanely remove wild cats from their property.