That nearly 50 percent euthanasia rate is something shelter workers and animal welfare advocates hope the City Council can remedy in coming weeks. The potential solution: an ordinance that would allow the city shelter to launch a “community cats” program.
Slated for a council vote Tuesday, the program is a simple one that begins with distinguishing between stray cats and community cats. The latter constitutes outdoor cats that either belong to city residents or are cared for by neighborhoods or multiple owners.
“What we see with cat owners is that it’s not uncommon for them to have an outdoor cat that they don’t feed for a couple days,” said Jon Gary, the shelter’s unit operations manager. “When [the cats] come to the shelter, the shelter only holds them for three days. In a lot of cases, when an owner comes, it’s too late.”
And the reclaim rate for cats is remarkably low. Gary said cat owners pick up only 1 to 2 percent of felines after they’re brought in.
Under the proposed program, cats would be taken from the shelter by the Central Oklahoma Humane Society, which would then vaccinate, spay or neuter, and return the felines to where they initially were picked up.
The idea is not only to reduce the number of animals euthanized, but also to minimize the shelter’s intake, Gary said.
For five years, the Humane Society has run a similar program focused on feral cat colonies. The change now pending before City Council essentially would be an extension of that system, said Christy Counts, president of the Central Oklahoma Humane Society.
Upon return of the cats, the Humane Society will place fliers on doorknobs of homes and businesses in the area, detailing the program. The cats themselves will have notches in their ears to indicate they’ve received care.
There is a caveat: Cats identified by members of the community as nuisances or harmful will not be returned, Gary said.
The shelter is paying for its costs out of preexisting funds from its adoption fees, Gary said. Funding for the Humane Society’s program comes from the Kirkpatrick Foundation and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The goal is to include 1,000 cats in the program in its initial year. Organizers are optimistic that number can be reached. “The vast majority of the population cares about humane solutions to our overpopulation problem, rather than killing these cats,” Counts said. “Community cats are really good neighbors once they’re spayed, neutered and vaccinated.”