South Orange launches humane program to reduce feral cat population

SO-feral cat-WSOUTH ORANGE, NJ — On June 27, the Board of Health in South Orange enacted an ordinance to address the growing feral cat population in the village. For years, the village and many other municipalities in New Jersey have tried unsuccessfully to combat feral cat overpopulation by trapping and removing cats. In a recent press release, the village wrote that village President Sheena Collum and the Board of Health had decided it was time to try something different — a method called TNVR.

TNVR — or Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate and Return — is a process that involves humanely trapping feral cats, spaying or neutering them, vaccinating them against rabies and other common illnesses, and returning them to their outdoor “home” to live out their lives. A “colony caretaker” provides food, fresh water and adequate shelter to the colony cats and monitors their health. Neutering the cats nearly eliminates nuisance behaviors that are so bothersome to residents and are associated with hormones and reproduction, such as territorial marking, urine spraying, unburied feces, caterwauling and fighting. According to the village, TNVR is proven to be the least costly and most efficient way to reduce feral cat populations. TNVR, which is considered by many to be the most humane method of reducing feral cat populations, is endorsed by many animal welfare organizations, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Humane Society of the United States and the National Animal Control Association.

There are an estimated 50 million feral cats in the United States, as per the Humane Society of the United States. Unfortunately, feral cats have reverted to a wild state and are not appropriate as housepets so those that wind up in the shelter system are almost always euthanized. Every year, tens of thousands of feral cats are euthanized in New Jersey’s shelters simply because there is no alternative, the release stated.

South Orange will enlist a local animal welfare organization, People for Animals, to help administer the program in order to reduce the cost burden to taxpayers. PFA has operated a low-cost spay/neuter clinic in Hillside for 30 years and will be serving as the program’s sponsor.  The sponsor is responsible for monitoring and administrating the TNVR program. This includes responding to and abating nuisance complaints about cats outdoors, overseeing cat caretakers, raising funds to support the program, and reporting statistics about the program to South Orange’s Board of Health and Health Department annually. PFA will also host TNVR training workshops for caretakers and loan out traps to support those who are trying to help feral cats in their neighborhoods. Residents who want to become a colony caretaker or need help with feral cat populations are encouraged to contact PFA directly at 973-282-0890, ext. 222, or by email at TNR@pfaonline.org.

“Feral cats are the offspring of lost or abandoned pets and reproductively intact housecats that are allowed to roam unsupervised. Cats are very prolific so once they start reproducing, the populations grow rapidly,” PFA Executive Director and President Jane Guillaume said in the release. “But people are the reason that feral cats are out there in the first place, and it is our responsibility to humanely solve the problem we have created. We are thrilled to be able to lend a hand to help South Orange stabilize and reduce the feral cat populations.”

According to the release, 100 percent of all donations to PFA earmarked for South Orange TNVR go directly to offset costs of medical and surgical care for feral cats in South Orange. Those who wish to support the TNVR program can do so by visiting www.pfaonline.org or by sending support to People for Animals — clearly marked “For South Orange TNVR” in the memo field — at 401 Hillside Ave., Hillside, NJ 07205.

Photo Courtesy of John Festa

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