The writer, a Valley Cottage resident, is part of Community Cats Initiative — Educating and Advocating for TNR in Rockland County. Published on Lohud.com
The Village of Haverstraw made history when it passed Rockland County’s first feral cat ordinance to support Trap Neuter Return. Mayor Michael Kohut understood the imperative of taking a practical and humane step toward controlling the population of stray or “feral” cats.
Stray cats, and often colonies of stray/feral cats, live in every corner of this county — behind shopping centers, near office buildings, in apartment complexes, by the river, in parks. Everywhere! Feral cats live close to humanity because they find sources of food and water. Most of mankind feels an instinct to help the strays they see, so they feed them.
But a comprehensive Trap, Neuter, Return program, which is what the Village of Haverstraw endorsed with its newly passed legislation, turns random feeding into a cohesive approach to both feed but winnow down the populations through sterilizing and vaccinating. Community Cats Initiative, a nonprofit group that is advocating for and educating on Trap Neuter Return countywide, has introduced this concept to Mayor Kohut, and to other mayors and supervisors in the county.
TNR is a tried and tested method of population control being used throughout the country and the world. Here’s how it works: There is a caretaker in charge of a managed colony. That colony can be anywhere from five cats to 50. The feeder comes at regularly scheduled times, feeds the colony, and then removes the food source, so as not to attract other wildlife. The colony caretaker — working with TNR groups — aims to fix all the cats, male and female. The TNR groups work with lower-cost spay-neuter facilities. The overarching goal of TNR is to reduce populations through sterilization, and to stop the cycle of kitten births. Fixing cats also reduces nuisance behavior such as fighting, yowling and spraying. The colony caretaker is like a manager — when a new cat shows up, they make sure the intruder is also fixed.
So where does the Village of Haverstraw fit in?
TNR works best when colony caretakers, animal control officers, law enforcement and the community work together. When a municipality blesses TNR, the program operates in daylight. It is legitimate and the different parties can come to the table together. Additionally, the municipality helps to disseminate information and educate its citizens. It helps fund the efforts.
There are tens of thousands of community cats roaming Rockland County. Until now, mayors and supervisors have let this issue fester — largely because they have not even realized it is an issue. Many have mistakenly believed this is something that can be taken care of by the lone animal control officer or Hi Tor. This was never really the case; but it is certainly not so now. Killing cats is just not acceptable. It’s also not affordable or practical. Hi Tor is unable to house scores of feral cats, and they have said they will no longer take ear-tipped cats (cats in colonies that have been fixed are ear-tipped).
Community cats are not going to go away. Not unless town officials step up and embrace TNR, and pass ordinances to support these programs.