This is a trap-neuter-return (TNR) success story. The reason why this is a success story is because a network of committed people work together to make it a success. When TNR is carried out properly it works extremely effectively and above all humanely.
The location is Long Beach Island (LBI). A key element in the success of TNR is the involvement of Stafford Township Animal Control. Kelly Karch explained the success of the TNR program at a presentation she gave at the Highland Branch of the Ocean County Library in Surf City.
Kelly explained that in 2011, 156 cats were brought to the Southern Ocean County Animal Shelter in Manahawkin. Primarily because of the effectiveness of the TNR program, the number of cats brought to the shelter has consistently declined over the ensuing years to 105 in 2012, 51 cats in 2013, 38 cats in 2014 and 36 cats in 2015.
“As the numbers of cats being brought to the shelter continues to decrease, one can only hope that the 2016 impounds will continue to be at a record low… The more people becoming aware of TNR and getting involved will make this program continue to succeed.”
Trapping is conducted throughout the year. Only a very small percentage of cats are euthanized for poor health. The most common complaint regarding cats in the area is that of roaming cats on private property but she makes the point that there is no documented damage for 80% of the complaint calls.
As usual, some residents complain about nuisance issues in the vicinity of a feral cat colony undergoing the TNR process. Under these circumstances animal control officers tell the resident about deterrent measures that can be employed. The caretaker of the feral cat colony is involved as well as the Friends of the Southern Ocean County Animal Shelter. I like this. This is dialogue to resolve issues surrounding alleged nuisance from feral cats while they are being humanely reduced in numbers. Of course it takes a long time to reduce feral cat numbers this way and therefore patience is required and the acceptance of the community.
Kelly Karch says that some people believe that feral cat caretakers engaged in TNR will get into trouble and that their cats will be taken away. However, she says that most animal control agencies support TNR. I’m not completely sure that that is correct but the animal control organisation to which she is affiliated certainly do support TNR.
“Our department is very involved with the Long Beach Island TNR efforts… We also lend traps and transport feral cats on and off for residents who have decided to become caretakers.”
As part of the team effort, discounted TNR services are also provided through local veterinary clinics including Ocean Acres Veterinary Office and Berkeley Veterinary Centre.
Then of course there is the much needed foster carers who help care for and socialise kittens in preparation for adoption. Cat foster carers are a vital part of the TNR program. You have to have them as you need somewhere and someone to look after kittens who can be socialised and placed with a new owner.
One foster carer is Mary Endsminger. She has fostered 120 cats with her husband Rick at their home in the Beach Haven Gardens section of Long Beach Township. Mary says that fostering kittens is a highly rewarding process because they respond to your attention and care immediately. She makes a nice point. If you like kittens but don’t really want to look after an adult cat you may be suitable to be a foster carer of kittens.
TNR works when, as mentioned above, a team effort of volunteers and paid employees is in place and when animal control works in conjunction with other members of the network. It is about commitment obviously. Where there is commitment and consistency over a long period of time success in TNR will follow.
PS – I have decided that no cat hating troll will be allowed to comment on this article. Cat hating trolls like to denigrate the good work of people involved in TNR and promote what we all know is a hopelessly ineffective way of controlling feral cat populations, namely, killing them.