South Orange Board of Health to Craft TNR Ordinance for Feral Cats

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In what represents a 180-degree shift, the South Orange Board of Health agreed to form a committee at its meeting last night to “hash out” the details of a Trap/Neuter/Release (TNR) program to deal with feral cats in the Township. The decision came after a presentation by Executive Director Jane Guillaume of People for Animals which has been offering spay and neuter services since 1985 and recently began providing TNR programs to municipalities.

In the recent past, the Board of Heath appeared to clash with the Board of Trustees over the possible adoption of a TNR program for South Orange.

The Board of Trustees — most notably Village President Sheena Collum — have indicated support for a pilot TNR program, while Board of Health members indicated their lack of support for such a program at a July Board of Trustees presentation.

Despite support from the Trustees, South Orange cannot move forward with such a program without the approval of the Board of Health, which is a separate governing body.

“The Board of Trustees in South Orange cannot unilaterally adopt a TNR program without the support of the Board of Health,” said Collum in an email to Village Green earlier this month. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t work together and share information with one another.”

Collum said she had asked the BOH to revisit the issue.

“…they agreed to do so and for that, I’m very appreciative – especially of Dr. David Pittman who is the President of the Board of Health and our Health Officer John Festa,” Collum said. The town has since received more information about how other communities have successfully implemented TNR, and members of the BOH and the town’s animal control officer have been meeting with experts to learn more about the program.

(Members of the Board of Health are appointed by the Village President. There are nine members of the Board of Health: seven permanent members serving three-year terms and two alternates with staggered two-year terms. Three of the seven permanent members’ terms — including Chair Dr. David Pitman’s term — will expire at the end of this calendar year.)

Although Village Green did not attend last night’s meeting, we caught up with People for Animals’ Jane Guillaume via email. People for Animals has two spay and neuter clinics and rescue operations in New Jersey: one in Hillside and the other in Robbinsville. Village Green asked for more information on PFA’s experience providing TNR services to municipalities. Guillaume provided the following response to our questions:

PFA’s Hillside clinic opened in 1985 and we have been assisting individuals, non-profit groups, and shelters with TNR for 30 years. For the last five years, we have been doing public policy outreach to towns to promote humane legislation for feral cat population control. We have assisted a number of towns to enact humane ordinances, most recently Roselle Park, Hillside, and (in process) West Orange.

Because of the specialized nature of services we perform, we have paid professional staff. Our clinics (in Robbinsville, Hillside and soon in Clayton) provide high quality, low cost spay/neuter services. We also offer low cost preventive services like vaccinations, microchips, and routine testing.

We promote TNVM as part of our mission to eliminate animal suffering through affordable essential pet healthcare, public policy advocacy and community programs. PFA offers training workshops on TNVM, as well as no-cost loans of humane traps to be used for TNVM (fully refundable deposit is required).

PFA is the official sponsor for the Hillside TNVM Program which was established in October 2014. We have just recently begun offering sponsorship services to other towns in response to their requests. Specifics of our sponsorship services are in the attached document.

Cleo PFA People for Animals Ear Tip Feral Cats

Regarding fees, Guillaume wrote:

Our fees for Spay/Neuter (SN) services are on our website  SN for feral cats is $55 and includes all surgery services and vaccination for Rabies and FVRCP as well as ear tip. Ear tipping is the universal sign that a free-roaming cat has been sterilized and vaccinated.  Approximately 1 cm of the left ear is removed in a straight line while the cat is anesthetized. 

Fees for Sponsorship of a TNVM program are determined based on the needs and resources of the municipality and usually range from $175-200 per 1,000 human population per year.

The Board of Health’s TNR committee will be made up of members of the Board of Health, experts (including Guillaume), and representatives from the community. Collum indicated earlier this month that conversations were moving in this direction when she told Village Green, “I think everyone is keeping an open mind and trying to balance all the information that is coming our way and I hope we’ll be able to come up with a solution that balances all the competing interests and concerns.”

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