South Orange Trap Neuter Vaccinate Release Program Starts July 18

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The South Orange Board of Health — comprised of the South Orange Trustees — approved an ordinance on Monday night adopting a trap neuter vaccinate and release (TNVR) program to deal with the town’s feral cats.

The program will begin July 18, according to Village Health Officer John Festa.

Festa and Jane Guillaume of People for Animals gave the Board an overview of the draft ordinance in April.

The South Orange TNVR program will be run by a sponsor (People for Animals of Hillside) that works with caregivers to trap, spay or neuter, vaccinate and return cats to their colonies. Caregivers must register with the sponsor.

Festa explained, “Basically now, Animal Control is trapping animals and bringing them to a facility. So with TNVR, once a caregiver is approved by the sponsor, [the cats] would live out their lives in that setting with the caregiver.”

Festa added, “There would be education and a tight relationship between caregiver, sponsor and the health department.”

One outstanding issue discussed on Monday night was whether or not neighbors should be notified about colony feeders who registered with the TNRV program

Village Trustee Jeff Dubowy said that neighborhood notification was not necessary.

“People aren’t going to sign up to start a colony,” said Dubowy. “It’s going to be for the people who are already doing it [feeding colonies].

Village Administrator Barry Lewis added, “Where the colonies are is a matter of public record. But we didn’t want to give neighbors veto power…. The effort is on public notification and public education, instead of neighbor notification.”

Caregivers, working with PFA and the Village, would have 45 days to resolve any complaints.

In April, Guillaume spoke further about why it works better to return cats rather than relocate them: “Cats exist in the community…. Rather than having them languish in a shelter, [TNVR] gets them spayed, neutered, microchipped and then returned to where they were found…. This program does not create colonies [but is] only asking to stop the cycle of unchecked reproduction.”

“If we can get them early, get them fixed, there will be fewer complaints,” said Guillaume, who noted that most of the behavior prompting complaints was prompted by the behavior of mating — including yowling, fighting over mates, and the pungent odor of marking territory.

“It’s a humane method to end the reproductive cycle,” said Guillaume. “The feeder is worked with to keep it from being an attraction for wildlife…. The sponsor helps them, provides ongoing support for feeders and other neighbors.”

Festa said that the cost of a service level agreement with PFA would be $3,000 per year.

At the June meeting, Guillaume noted that kittens would be removed from the colonies and adopted out. She also promised data: tracking complaints and cats.

On Monday night, Collum noted the dramatic turnaround that the Village had made on the question of feral cats and TNVR: “I’m very supportive of this. We’ve come a long way in two years from when former Board of Health was unanimously opposed to this.”

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