Cat control in limbo

Local volunteers will have to make the case later this year for feral cat control in Norfolk.Norfolk council received a report this week on the performance of the program since 2017.However, council did not restore $10,000 in funding that it cut in January. As well, council did not commit to renewing the program in 2020.The outcome was a disappointment for local cat managers. Regardless, they will attempt to sell council on the merits of trap, neuter and re-home in time for the 2020 budget deliberations.“I’m glad it’s still alive,” Sandi Fettes of Simcoe, a spokesperson for the local program, said this week. “It’s not dead in the water yet. They recognize there are a lot of benefits to the program.”Pam Duesling, Norfolk’s general manager of development and cultural services, tabled a report Tuesday on the performance of the local program.Council heard that, in 2016, the feral cat population in Norfolk was estimated at up to 30,000. There were concerns about feral cats spreading disease, as well as their impact on birds and wildlife.Norfolk devoted $50,000 to trap, neuter and re-home in 2017. This was reduced to $40,000 in 2018.During council’s budget deliberations in January, the $30,000 proposed for 2019 was reduced to $20,000.Fettes and her colleagues hoped council would reverse the $10,000 cut this week but that didn’t happen.The cat-control initiative was approved in 2017 as a three-year program. There was no commitment beyond 2019 and cat control is not a mandated municipal responsibility. Volunteers will learn in January whether council is prepared to renew it.The contract this year is held by Purrfect Companions of Delhi.“In the past three years, Purrfect Companions took in 1,900 cats,” founder and president Brenda Cameron said. “We saved a lot of cats. We spent $691,000 over the last three years on our entire operation.”In a recent presentation to Norfolk council, Fettes said cat-control volunteers are making progress reducing the number of feral cats.She said the spay-and-neuter program has at least slowed, if not reduced, the birth rate. Cat numbers could rebound if the county prematurely withdraws funding, she said.In her report, Duesling said nine per cent of the cats that passed through Purrfect Companions last year were returned to a managed colony. Homes were found for the rest. At a managed colony, the cats are left alone but are fed and monitored for disease.Homes were found for 800 cats last year at a cost to new owners of between $80 and $150 per animal. The shelter on the east side of Delhi is at capacity. There are 280 cats on site, while another 150 are in foster [email protected]

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