By Al Everson
BEACON STAFF WRITER
BEACON STAFF WRITER
posted Jun 23, 2010 - 4:49:34pm
In one month this spring, 1,024 stray cats and kittens were taken in by Halifax Humane Society in Daytona Beach.
Of those, 883 were euthanized.
The tragedy, along with the cost of dealing with cat overpopulation, has the attention of the Volusia County Council.
Upon the recommendation of Animal Services Director Becky Wilson, the County Council on June 17 directed the Animal Control Board to study the stray-cat problem and propose solutions.
The council was told free-roaming cats account for 75 percent of the animal impoundments countywide, and 80 percent of the animals euthanized at shelters.
"Cats reproduce a lot. They actually can produce three or four litters per year," Wilson told the County Council. "The number continues to increase, and so does the cost."
Council Member Carl Persis said statistics show one male cat and one female cat are capable of producing 427,000 descendants over seven years.
"It really would help if people would keep their cats indoors," Persis said. "Unless they are neutered or spayed, they will do what animals do."
Wilson's plan for a study of the problem includes asking veterinarians, nonprofit organizations and other local governments to share ideas and advice.
Council Member Jack Hayman emphasized involving Volusia's 16 cities, because the problem of stray cats is not confined to the unincorporated area.
"Somebody, somewhere had better get the message to our colleagues in the cities," Hayman said.
Wilson discussed the possibility of a partnership of local governments and private animal-welfare groups to head off cat overpopulation. She said governmental or private grants may be available.
Residents attending the meeting offered possible solutions, including broader use of the Pet Vet Cruiser, a mobile spay-and-neuter clinic for low-income residents of the unincorporated area.
"Open your Pet Cruiser to all residents of Volusia County. That's critical," urged Donna G. Flood, a DeLand resident. "Eliminate the billing issue between the cities and the county."
Flood also suggested the county do more to protect cats.
"Build a shelter at Barkley Square, a sanctuary," she told the County Council.
Barkley Square, near the old Plymouth Avenue Landfill northwest of DeLand, is a county park for dogs and their owners.
"You build dog parks; build a cat park," agreed Bob Baird, another DeLand animal-welfare advocate.
Baird said he has personally paid to have about 500 strays sterilized.
Kevin Hancock, a spokesman for the Halifax Humane Society, agreed spaying and neutering is part of the solution to the problem of large numbers of unwanted animals.
He said Halifax offers low-cost sterilization, and invited residents to call 386-274-4703 for more information.
Halifax has temporarily reduced the cost of cat adoptions, to encourage people to give homes to the hundreds of cats flooding the shelter.
Flood said cat overpopulation has been aggravated by a surge in home foreclosures, as hard-pressed families have been forced to dispose of pets.
For local governments, the cost of dealing with the problem is rising. The county and many of the cities in Volusia County contract with Halifax Humane Society to shelter and dispose of animals picked up within their jurisdictions.
Recently, Halifax Humane Society raised its charge to $87.37 — up from $80 — to keep an animal for three days. If the pet is not reclaimed by its owner or adopted within three days, the Humane Society may euthanize it.