There’s no easy answer when it comes to Gander addressing feral cat populations. At least that’s how Mayor Percy Farwell sees it.
The town was recently approached by a group to amend its no roaming bylaws to allow feral cats, spayed or neutered and veterinarian checked, to be released into a caretaker’s possession.
The program, which is called trap-neuter-return, would provide shelter, food and care to treated animals while remaining outside.
According to the Peoples Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), adult feral cats are almost impossible to be rehabilitated.
After carrying out research, Farwell said the town was not prepared to make changes to its bylaws or support a trap-neuter-return program.
Town staff spoke with municipalities that have adopted similar programs, the SPCA, veterinarians and representation from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
“(Trap-neuter-return) programs have been around for about 30 years, they have passionate promoters and passionate detractors,” Farwell said.
Ultimately, it came down the quality of life.
While such programs look to be the better option than trapping and euthanizing, Farwell said there was concern about the well-being of the cats after being released.
He said released cats are still exposed to predators, disease and weather elements. Care programs for feral cats can be costly and volunteer interest can wane over time, leaving cats to fend for themselves.
“It could condemn them to life where they are not living a quality life,” he said.
Farwell added feral cats can have an impact on wild bird populations and be carriers of disease.
“The feral cat issue needs to be addressed, but there doesn’t seem to be strong evidence that what is proposed is the best solution to it,” he said. “We haven’t really solved anything by not supporting a (trap-neuter-return) program … so we’ll continue to have discussions around the best way to approach this.”
Emma Manning, who started the Gander Feral Cat/Kitten Rescue group last fall, expressed her disappointment in the town’s decision but chose not to comment on the matter.
Farwell commended the group in reaching out to the town rather than pushing ahead with its own agenda.
While the outcome may not have been what they were expecting, he’s hopeful the conversation can continue and a consensus about the process can be reached.