By Trevor Busch
Town council is requesting additional information about implementation of a feral cat catch, spay/neuter and release program to help control Taber’s burgeoning cat population.
In November 2022, administration had provided council an opportunity to discuss a feral cat control program, and it was resolved by council to have administration look further into the services that the Town would receive through a contracted service provider.
The service provider, Canadian Animal Task Force, supplied an estimated cost of $60 per feral cat, but that cost only includes the meds and disposables for each cat. There are additional costs per animal depending on what other variables come into play. Through this contracted service, the feral cats are identified with a tattoo in one ear and a clipping on the other ear so the cat can be identified from a distance that it has been treated through the program.
Through the operating budget approval process council has already approved $16,000 to administer a feral cat program.
At town council’s Feb. 27 meeting, Coun. Jack Brewin asked if unlicensed animals in the community would be caught, checked, tattooed and earmarked, and then released.
“They check for a chip on an animal. I don’t know how well they know whether one is feral or a pet,” said CAO Derrin Thibault. “I suspect you can probably tell by how good they look, or don’t look. I don’t know if there’s a science to that.”
Brewin indicated such a process might present issues for the Town.
“I’m just concerned that some resident’s cat shows up in the morning and it has a hole in its ear because it was marked. It’s a great idea but I think we’re going to have some issues with them that way.”
Administration also indicated the Last Chance Cat Ranch and the Taber Police Service had requested a discussion on the matter.
If approved in future, the Canadian Animal Task Force is proposing a Municipal Cat Care and Management Project for the town during July 6 – 9, 2023. Under the program, 4 – 6 weeks prior to the spay neuter clinic weekend the program would be announced in local media, including educational material for cat owners, recruiting local volunteers if needed, and advertising a cat demographic survey to community members.
Two to three weeks prior to the clinic, they would locate, assess and count cats, identify problematic areas, and speak with businesses and community members that live near cat colonies.
On July 6 – 7, the cats would be trapped, followed by surgery on July 8, followed by releasing cats post-surgery on July 9 to areas where they were trapped or caught. Cats that are too stressed will be released sooner after obtaining approval from the responsible veterinarian, and community caregivers will continue to monitor and care for the cats.
“All things considered, we have not done anything for three years,” said Mayor Andrew Prokop. “There’s been many complaints and concerns about them, as well through our police service… I think we need to start somewhere.”
Following discussion, council voted unanimously to approve a motion requesting additional information about the details of the program.
Administration’s original recommendation to utilize $10,000 from the previously approved $16,000 in the 2023 operational budget for the cat program was declined by council.