By Trevor Busch
The Town of Taber has authorized $10,000 for an upcoming feral cat control program to be implemented in the community.
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.
On Feb. 27, council tabled a decision on the matter to allow administration to gather additional information to determine if the cost of the feral cat service is contingent on the number of cats captured. After further discussion with the service provider, administration indicated the first step in the program is to do an assessment of the approximate number of feral cats at large prior to deciding how to address the feral cat concern.
The assessment would involve public engagement which would include local individuals that are familiar with the current feral cat population. Once that approximation is established the “program administrator will decide the most cost effective way forward for the program’s success and adjust the cost of the service accordingly.”
“The Town would be made aware of the type of service that is to be provided prior to agreeing to move forward with the catch and release portion of the service,” stated administration in the request for decision at town council’s March 13 meeting. “The service is paid for upon completion. It should be noted that the cost will not go above $10,000 if it turns out that the contracted service provider services a greater number of feral cats than the $10,000 was estimated to service.”
The $10,000 would provide enough for approximately 130 animals.
“If this must be done, it’s pretty good value,” said Coun. Alf Rudd.
Through the operating budget approval process council had already approved $16,000 to administer a feral cat program.
Coun. Joanne Sorensen asked if the Last Chance Cat Ranch was on board with the responsibilities and implications of council’s decision.
“The Last Chance Cat Ranch is out of Lethbridge, and they’re the ones that take the cats from here, feral or not feral, and they’re the ones who expressed interest in a program like this happening, because they’re getting a lot of cats from Taber,” said CAO Derrin Thibault. “Unfortunately I couldn’t get those numbers.”
Following discussion, council voted unanimously to direct administration to use $10,000 of the previously approved $16,000 from the 2023 operational budget for the purpose of administering a feral cat catch, spay/neuter, and release program.
Now approved, 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.