Council Committee OKs new method for managing stray cats

A City Council committee has approved a new approach to dealing with stray cats — one Animal Care & Control leaders hope will reduce the feral cat population in the city and result in fewer cats getting put to sleep.

The Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights & Health Committee voted 5-0 to approve an ordinance Wednesday authorizing the Trap/Neuter/Return program, which would legalize feral cat colonies in the city and empower caretakers of those colonies to feed the cats and help city workers sterilize the cats.

The ordinance, authored by Council Member Cam Gordon (Ward 2), will now go before the full Council for a vote on Sept. 20.

The way Animal Care & Control deals with stray cats now is to take in the feral cats and in many cases, put them down. In 2012, Animal Care & Control took in 927 stray cats and euthanized 327 of them.

Several local animal advocacy groups testified in support of the ordinance at the hearing at City Hall. Meanwhile, members of the local Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis voiced concerns that having more well-fed cats in the city would have a detrimental impact on the city’s bird population.

Gordon and advocates of the Trap/Neuter/Return program, however, countered that this new strategy is the only effective way of reducing the stray population and will be better for birds in the long run than the current way the city deals with stray cats.

City Council Member Betsy Hodges (Ward 13) noted that she’s adopted a cat from Animal Care and Control and keeps it indoors. She said that while the trapping and neutering approach won’t fully solve the problem, it’s the best option.

“I don’t want the perfect to get in the way of the good,” she said. “This will help.”

Several other major cities across the country have implemented the Trap/Neuter/Return program and have success in reducing feral cat populations, including St. Paul, Chicago, Indianapolis and Baltimore, among others.