The Nova Scotia Society for the Protection of Animals (SPCA) is preparing to launch a trap, neuter, release (TNR) program in the county in August in response to Lunenburg residents’ concerns about feral cats.
The audit and finance committee of the Municipality of Lunenburg (MODL) agreed at its meeting on June 6 to recommend council contribute $1,000 toward the project.
While the money falls short of the $2,500 the SPCA was asking for, Taylor Burke, the organization’s provincial branch coordinator, commented, “We would be incredibly grateful if that amount were approved.”
The TNR program stems from an online survey about feral cats the SPCA ran in 2015, which garnered 5,000 responses from throughout the province. From that, the organization mapped what it describes as colonies of feral cats in Nova Scotia, which range in size from about five to 200 cats.
Then it developed a strategic plan to address them.
Last year, the organization handled approximately 500 feral felines in its TNR program.
According to Burke, the survey results indicated there were 67 feral cats in Lunenburg County at the time.
The SPCA orchestrates the TNR program using local volunteers, many of whom are people who brought the attention of the cats to the organization through its survey.
Typically, the volunteers place the live traps with bait in strategic spots over night, and return to it periodically to determine whether a cat is inside. Once the cat is trapped, the volunteer takes the trap to a designated spot where a veterinarian team with the SPCA’s mobile surgical unit performs the neutering.
The SPCA aims to trap, neuter and release about 30 animals at a time to ensure the program is as efficient and cost-effective as possible.
Taking into account veterinarian fees, surgical equipment and fuel, Burke says each TNR event costs the SPCA about $1,200 to $2,000, depending on the number of cats involved.
While Burke acknowledged some might suggest the easier and perhaps more humane option is to simply euthanize the animals, she says that is not the SPCA way.
“We pride ourselves, we very much pride ourselves, on being considered a no-kill. And think that that’s the most humane way to go. If we did euthanize the cats that were brought into our service, I don’t believe we could consider ourselves a no-kill facility.”
She says feral cats are “very tolerant” of Nova Scotia’s winters.
“We compare them to a raccoon. They’re very hardy.”
Moreover, she notes that the feral problem has grown out of what essentially a domestic situation.
“I think at some point we have to recognize the contribution humans have (made) to create this problem,” says Burke.