By DON STINE
Feral cats in Ocean Township will be caught, neutered and then released under a program between the township and the Monmouth County SPCA.
The Township Council last week approved a memorandum of agreement with the SPCA to initiate the program, called Trap and Release. The program is expected to begin immediately.
SPCA Executive Director Ross Licitra, who attended the meeting to explain the program, said the feral cat issue “remains all too-long a problem” in many communities but that this program has “been proven over the years.”
Under the program, captured feral cats will be given needed vaccinations, including for rabies, be neutered, have a microchip installed, and then released back into their former environment at a cost of about $75 per cat. The cost is shared between the township and the SPCA, up to a maximum of 100 cats. Dealing with any additional cats would require another agreement.
“You can sign up for the program again,” Licitra said.
Medical records are also kept on each cat. The SPCA does about 400 to 500 neutering operations a month.
“It’s not a silver bullet program but it’s the beginning of a program on an issue that needs to be addressed. And we will do all of the work. This has been a very, very successful program,” Licitra said.
He said the feral cat issue “will not be solved overnight” and can take up to five to six years.
Licitra said that this is the “benchmark program” in New Jersey for dealing with feral cats. He said the cat problem in Ocean Township is most severe in the Wanamassa section.
“I have no idea how many feral cats there are in the township but there’s a lot,” he said.
He said that an important part of the Trap and Release program are community colony caregivers, who provide for and help monitor the cats once they are released. The caregivers must fill out the required paperwork and be approved by the township and the SPCA.
“These people need to be respectful, caring, and they become a great agent for us,” he said.
He said the caregiver makes sure that cats are fed at certain times only so that wild animals are not attracted to food sources.
If there are too many cats in one location, the SPCA will remove some of them and relocate them, particularly to places like the county landfill where they can keep the pest problem, like mice and rats, under control.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Mayor Christopher Siciliano said.