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Fort Worth Looks To Control Feral Cat Population

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Suzette Watkins poured some water from a bucket into a plastic dish tray on the ground. From a fenced field covered with various machinery from a nearby business, cats began to appear. They popped up from patches of high ground and emerged from under a tractor and warily made their way toward the water.

“There’s a lady that has been feeding these cats for like 20 years, ” Watkins said. “They multiply like crazy because there’s not really any trapping and neutering going on with this colony.”

Watkins’ kennel is across the street from this feral cat colony. Watkins neutered more than a dozen of the cats and is still trying to control its size. Other colonies in the city are completely without control. In fact, the city euthanizes around 3,000 feral cats a year trapped and brought into animal control by residents. And the number of wild cats is growing.

“We don’t have an accurate count but what we know is that the three thousand that come to our shelter is a VERY small percentage that come to our shelter in Fort Worth,” said Scott Hanlan, Fort Worth’s Assistant Code Compliance Director.

The city has proposed a trap, neuter, release program — or TNR. Rather than putting the animals down, they would spay or neuter them then return them to the colony. The colonies would then be unable to grow as quickly. The city would also register the names of people who take care of colonies and fine them up to $2,000 if they didn’t TNR. And that’s where people balked at the idea.

“Just don’t put all that other garbage in there,” Watkins said. “Just say TNR is legal and if we can help you let us know. You would get a lot more help doing that.”

The Fort Worth City Council agreed and now animal control is trying to find some middle ground.

“We tried to create a system that allows feral cat caretakers to perform their responsibilities and yet have tools in place to resolve nuisance issues,” Hanlan said.

Code Compliance will hold another public hearing next week before rewriting their proposal and returning to council.

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