407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

Cape May City's Trap, Neuter and Return Program
Leading the Way to the
Humane Treatment of Ferel Cats


Juanita "Jane" Wheatley
Animal Control Officer , City of Cape May

 

Photo of horse drawn carrige - see caption below
Harry Bellangy, one of the city's 12 registered caretakers of feral cat colonies spends some time with his cats. Carriage driver Diane her horse Patrick are employed by the Cape May Carriage Company.

For many years Cape May City struggled with its large feral cat population. Animal Control was inundated with up to 25 telephone calls each month with complaints ranging from neighbors’ feeding feral cats to felines tearing up flowerbeds and sitting on and clawing vehicles.


An unaltered female and her offspring could be responsible for the birth of an astounding 420,000 cats over a seven-year period.


The biggest complaint was the powerful odor caused by male cats spraying to mark territory and attract mates.  Before the Trap, Neuter and Return Policy was implemented ten years ago John Queenan, Department Head of Animal Control and Code Enforcement and the Director of the Cape May County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center, became aware that cat  colonies in Cape May were multiplying at alarming rates.  An unaltered female and her offspring could conceivably be responsible for the birth of an astounding 420,000 cats over a seven-year period.
 
The resolution, which Queenan recommended, eventually passed into City Ordinance and within a few years, Cape May became the model for Trap, Neuter and Return advocates across the nation with Queenan being lauded as a man possessed of an  unbridled compassion for those without a voice. He was also seen as a man who, through his position in local government had the vision and means to freeze the feral cat population in this small community with a year-round populace of under 4,000.
 
In Queenan’s experience, it is considerably more expensive to a municipality to hold a feral cat for the state-mandated 7 days, euthanize, and dispose of the animal; than it is to set a trap, get the feral fixed through a discounted spay/neuter program (usually offered through local veterinarians), hold the animal for 2-5 days then release.  TNR is a more humane approach.  It is an approach with which residents can feel comfortable knowing they haven’t intentionally brought about the demise of a sentient being.  Our citizens are happy with the program and have nothing but praise for it. 

The reduction in the number of complaints has held over the last ten years at 80 percent.  We continuously strive to get that percentage even lower by promptly responding to reported sightings of cats without the telltale notch in the ear. The notch is visible to the average person in the street and serves as a reliable indicator that the animal has been altered.
 
For those few residents who call to ask for a solution for cats encroaching on their property and digging in flower beds, Animal Control gives out a flyer for a company which markets effective cat repellents over the internet.   

TNR in Cape May City has resulted in zero cats being taken to the Cape May County Shelter; however, shelter records show thousands of cats from surrounding communities have been taken to the shelter since it opened.  In this case, TNR speaks for itself.  Furthermore, no healthy feral cats in this community, since 1995, have been trapped and euthanized merely to decrease the population.  This is a statistic we are proud of and rightfully so because it illustrates just how effective Trap, Neuter and Return can be in a community. 

Taking cats to a county shelter results in, more times than not, its demise. Feral cats are wild animals and are not adoptable in the majority of cases. Taking a cat from a colony and killing it merely creates a vacancy for another feral cat. 


Although population control is the ultimate goal, the program also provides an example to the city's youth and to others of how a community should treat its animals.


Obstacles to TNR policies can involve a lack of communication between animal control officers and the general public, lack of support from elected officials, perceived expense to the taxpayer, and a dearth of cooperation between animal control and local animal rescue groups.  These obstacles are not insurmountable as long as a genuine desire to help this maligned creature is present.  Most animal control professionals are in the field because they care about animals.   Currently, most feral cats are taken to shelters and euthanized or the other extreme:  Left alone entirely.  Both approaches are unacceptable in Queenan’s view.
 
Animal Control’s image to the general public when programs like Trap, Neuter and Return are not in place suffers, because citizens become secretive in feeding cats— which serves only to exacerbate the problem.  Cats continue to multiply which in turn lengthens the breeding cycle.   When citizens are turned in by their neighbors for illegally feeding cats, summons are issued for violation of the Public Health Nuisance Code that entails court time and fines.  Trespassing may be involved where a feeder may go onto another’s property to feed feral cats and this involves additional court time and fines.  

Queenan resolved the problem of sneak feeding by citizens by tailoring a City of Cape May Feral Cat Registration and Agreement document that enables a citizen to continue feeding cats as long as the cats were monitored by the caretaker and as long as the feeding was done on private property and not city property, or on another’s property without their permission.   As one can see, Queenan effectively turned the situation around and gave some of the responsibility, heretofore solely that of the municipality, to the caretaker.

The premise behind the Feral Cat Registration is for a property owner to file an annual registration form with the city to give Animal Control a better idea of how many colonies are out there.  The caretaker is charged with regularly trapping cats over the age of 8 weeks to have them spayed and neutered. He or she also arranges to have all trapped cats tested for contagious diseases and to have them euthanized or isolated indoors if the FIV or Feline Leukemia tests are positive. Caretakers identify all altered cats by tipping their ears for easy identification and arrange to have all cats vaccinated for rabies. All of this is accomplished with 100 percent financial assistance from the municipality and with Animal Control doing the actual TNR and transportation; however, very little of the monies to fund TNR come from the department’s budget.

 In fact, the City of Cape May’s annual Animal Control budget is dedicated to concerns

feral cats eating
No healthy feral cats in this community, since 1995, have been trapped and euthanized merely to decrease the population.

mostly unrelated to feral cats.  Monies allocated for TNR and the low-cost spay/neuter program offered to residents by the city derive from grant monies kept in a separate fund.  Queenan solicits grants from many sources and has been awarded thousands over the years to primarily keep TNR active and to maintain the city’s low cost spay/neuter program for its residents. Although population control is the ultimate goal , the program also provides an example to the city’s youth and to others of how a community should treat its animals.
 
For example, the Dodge Foundation awarded $40,000 this year to the City of Cape May to promote Trap, Neuter and Return throughout Cape May County.   There are many grants specifically earmarked for animal welfare that can be solicited from foundations like PetSmart, Rutgers, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and others interested in promoting the welfare of animals. 

Cape May felines
These Cape May felines in our TNR program were adopted following alteration.

TNR can provoke heated debate particularly within the Animal Control field as traditional animal control practice advocates the trap and kill method to curtail feral cat populations.   Cape May is surrounded by water and is located at the tip of a peninsula.  TNR’s detractors argue that because the environment is isolated, it is easy to monitor multiple feral cat colonies and keep the population under control. However, if a concentrated, systematic effort to implement Trap, Neuter and Return is employed throughout a municipality with the assistance of volunteers from animal rescue groups, and with adequate funding obtained through grants, there is no reason why TNR shouldn’t work in any community in this state.  

We encourage municipalities and their officials to try TNR; if it doesn’t work, go back to the old system.  It might take 2-3 years but a sustained TNR program will eventually yield a significant reduction in the feral cat population, as has been the case in Cape May City, and other communities throughout the nation.

The City of Cape May has established a collaboration that many, considering the historical mistrust between the two entities, may find unusual: befriended local rescue groups and animal advocates and enlisted their help to promote Trap, Neuter and Return and to place adoptable kittens born of feral mothers.  The city approached Animal Outreach of Cape May County in 2003 and worked out a lease agreement stating that in exchange for the group taking over operation of the city’s temporary holding facility for injured and spay/neuter recovering animals and $1 per year, the group would receive land on which to place a trailer retrofitted to enclose cats prior to adoption.
Of course the return from this arrangement to the city has been extraordinary:  instead of our animal control officers spending time at the holding facility taking care of transient cats three times a day, and the time involved in transporting animals to area vets for treatment, spay/neuter, etc., now our animal control officers have time for other calls.

Queenan’s tireless effort to help animals continues apace.  One of the many ideas he has percolating is to implement a national animal cruelty offender registry similar to the national sex offender registry so professionals in the animal field can avoid adopting animals out to those who neglect or abuse their pets. 

In conclusion, the City of Cape May, its elected officials and its residents fully support Trap, Neuter and Retur NJLM - State Police Survey Highlights Gangs

407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

Cape May City's Trap, Neuter and Return Program
Leading the Way to the
Humane Treatment of Ferel Cats


Juanita "Jane" Wheatley
Animal Control Officer , City of Cape May

 

Photo of horse drawn carrige - see caption below
Harry Bellangy, one of the city's 12 registered caretakers of feral cat colonies spends some time with his cats. Carriage driver Diane her horse Patrick are employed by the Cape May Carriage Company.

For many years Cape May City struggled with its large feral cat population. Animal Control was inundated with up to 25 telephone calls each month with complaints ranging from neighbors’ feeding feral cats to felines tearing up flowerbeds and sitting on and clawing vehicles.


An unaltered female and her offspring could be responsible for the birth of an astounding 420,000 cats over a seven-year period.


The biggest complaint was the powerful odor caused by male cats spraying to mark territory and attract mates.  Before the Trap, Neuter and Return Policy was implemented ten years ago John Queenan, Department Head of Animal Control and Code Enforcement and the Director of the Cape May County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center, became aware that cat  colonies in Cape May were multiplying at alarming rates.  An unaltered female and her offspring could conceivably be responsible for the birth of an astounding 420,000 cats over a seven-year period.
 
The resolution, which Queenan recommended, eventually passed into City Ordinance and within a few years, Cape May became the model for Trap, Neuter and Return advocates across the nation with Queenan being lauded as a man possessed of an  unbridled compassion for those without a voice. He was also seen as a man who, through his position in local government had the vision and means to freeze the feral cat population in this small community with a year-round populace of under 4,000.
 
In Queenan’s experience, it is considerably more expensive to a municipality to hold a feral cat for the state-mandated 7 days, euthanize, and dispose of the animal; than it is to set a trap, get the feral fixed through a discounted spay/neuter program (usually offered through local veterinarians), hold the animal for 2-5 days then release.  TNR is a more humane approach.  It is an approach with which residents can feel comfortable knowing they haven’t intentionally brought about the demise of a sentient being.  Our citizens are happy with the program and have nothing but praise for it. 

The reduction in the number of complaints has held over the last ten years at 80 percent.  We continuously strive to get that percentage even lower by promptly responding to reported sightings of cats without the telltale notch in the ear. The notch is visible to the average person in the street and serves as a reliable indicator that the animal has been altered.
 
For those few residents who call to ask for a solution for cats encroaching on their property and digging in flower beds, Animal Control gives out a flyer for a company which markets effective cat repellents over the internet.   

TNR in Cape May City has resulted in zero cats being taken to the Cape May County Shelter; however, shelter records show thousands of cats from surrounding communities have been taken to the shelter since it opened.  In this case, TNR speaks for itself.  Furthermore, no healthy feral cats in this community, since 1995, have been trapped and euthanized merely to decrease the population.  This is a statistic we are proud of and rightfully so because it illustrates just how effective Trap, Neuter and Return can be in a community. 

Taking cats to a county shelter results in, more times than not, its demise. Feral cats are wild animals and are not adoptable in the majority of cases. Taking a cat from a colony and killing it merely creates a vacancy for another feral cat. 


Although population control is the ultimate goal, the program also provides an example to the city's youth and to others of how a community should treat its animals.


Obstacles to TNR policies can involve a lack of communication between animal control officers and the general public, lack of support from elected officials, perceived expense to the taxpayer, and a dearth of cooperation between animal control and local animal rescue groups.  These obstacles are not insurmountable as long as a genuine desire to help this maligned creature is present.  Most animal control professionals are in the field because they care about animals.   Currently, most feral cats are taken to shelters and euthanized or the other extreme:  Left alone entirely.  Both approaches are unacceptable in Queenan’s view.
 
Animal Control’s image to the general public when programs like Trap, Neuter and Return are not in place suffers, because citizens become secretive in feeding cats— which serves only to exacerbate the problem.  Cats continue to multiply which in turn lengthens the breeding cycle.   When citizens are turned in by their neighbors for illegally feeding cats, summons are issued for violation of the Public Health Nuisance Code that entails court time and fines.  Trespassing may be involved where a feeder may go onto another’s property to feed feral cats and this involves additional court time and fines.  

Queenan resolved the problem of sneak feeding by citizens by tailoring a City of Cape May Feral Cat Registration and Agreement document that enables a citizen to continue feeding cats as long as the cats were monitored by the caretaker and as long as the feeding was done on private property and not city property, or on another’s property without their permission.   As one can see, Queenan effectively turned the situation around and gave some of the responsibility, heretofore solely that of the municipality, to the caretaker.

The premise behind the Feral Cat Registration is for a property owner to file an annual registration form with the city to give Animal Control a better idea of how many colonies are out there.  The caretaker is charged with regularly trapping cats over the age of 8 weeks to have them spayed and neutered. He or she also arranges to have all trapped cats tested for contagious diseases and to have them euthanized or isolated indoors if the FIV or Feline Leukemia tests are positive. Caretakers identify all altered cats by tipping their ears for easy identification and arrange to have all cats vaccinated for rabies. All of this is accomplished with 100 percent financial assistance from the municipality and with Animal Control doing the actual TNR and transportation; however, very little of the monies to fund TNR come from the department’s budget.

 In fact, the City of Cape May’s annual Animal Control budget is dedicated to concerns

feral cats eating
No healthy feral cats in this community, since 1995, have been trapped and euthanized merely to decrease the population.

mostly unrelated to feral cats.  Monies allocated for TNR and the low-cost spay/neuter program offered to residents by the city derive from grant monies kept in a separate fund.  Queenan solicits grants from many sources and has been awarded thousands over the years to primarily keep TNR active and to maintain the city’s low cost spay/neuter program for its residents. Although population control is the ultimate goal , the program also provides an example to the city’s youth and to others of how a community should treat its animals.
 
For example, the Dodge Foundation awarded $40,000 this year to the City of Cape May to promote Trap, Neuter and Return throughout Cape May County.   There are many grants specifically earmarked for animal welfare that can be solicited from foundations like PetSmart, Rutgers, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and others interested in promoting the welfare of animals. 

Cape May felines
These Cape May felines in our TNR program were adopted following alteration.

TNR can provoke heated debate particularly within the Animal Control field as traditional animal control practice advocates the trap and kill method to curtail feral cat populations.   Cape May is surrounded by water and is located at the tip of a peninsula.  TNR’s detractors argue that because the environment is isolated, it is easy to monitor multiple feral cat colonies and keep the population under control. However, if a concentrated, systematic effort to implement Trap, Neuter and Return is employed throughout a municipality with the assistance of volunteers from animal rescue groups, and with adequate funding obtained through grants, there is no reason why TNR shouldn’t work in any community in this state.  

We encourage municipalities and their officials to try TNR; if it doesn’t work, go back to the old system.  It might take 2-3 years but a sustained TNR program will eventually yield a significant reduction in the feral cat population, as has been the case in Cape May City, and other communities throughout the nation.

The City of Cape May has established a collaboration that many, considering the historical mistrust between the two entities, may find unusual: befriended local rescue groups and animal advocates and enlisted their help to promote Trap, Neuter and Return and to place adoptable kittens born of feral mothers.  The city approached Animal Outreach of Cape May County in 2003 and worked out a lease agreement stating that in exchange for the group taking over operation of the city’s temporary holding facility for injured and spay/neuter recovering animals and $1 per year, the group would receive land on which to place a trailer retrofitted to enclose cats prior to adoption.
Of course the return from this arrangement to the city has been extraordinary:  instead of our animal control officers spending time at the holding facility taking care of transient cats three times a day, and the time involved in transporting animals to area vets for treatment, spay/neuter, etc., now our animal control officers have time for other calls.

Queenan’s tireless effort to help animals continues apace.  One of the many ideas he has percolating is to implement a national animal cruelty offender registry similar to the national sex offender registry so professionals in the animal field can avoid adopting animals out to those who neglect or abuse their pets. 

In conclusion, the City of Cape May, its elected officials and its residents fully support Trap, Neuter and Return as a humane solution to stem the increase in the populace of feral cats in any given municipality - no matter its size.


 

 

 

Article in October 2005, New Jersey Municipalities