Citizens committee begins discussions on feral cats

The Citizens Advisory Committee hopes to reach a solution within four meetings

There are approximately 18,000 feral cats in the city, and the Albany City Commissioners are calling on the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to begin working on how to control the overpopulation.

"Citizens have been complaining and it seems there are some larger congregations for cats that occurred in certain neighborhoods," says Asst. City Manager Wes Smith.

Smith says one year ago, the city did trap feral cats.

"Our attorney opined that we could not trap them, we had trapped them up until that point as a part of our animal control process, so we stopped," he says.

Now the CAC is reconvening to develop new solutions and ordinances that will work this time around.

"Every animal has certain role and we don't want to wipe them away completely but we do want to control the issue so all fears and concerns of citizens are maintained," says CAC Member Charles King, Jr.

Members say they want to address concerns two parties involve have: Those who are concerned about the harm feral cats can cause and those concerned about the harm that may come to the cats.

"There's concern about disease there concern about overpopulation, and then there are a group of people that love cats and think it's perfectly natural have a lot of cats out and about and essentially wild," says Smith.

Some citizens have come forward already making sure a humane decision is reached. One Southwest Georgian emailed "Trap and remove is ineffective and unpopular with caring citizens."

Committee members say they want to make those concerned about the humane treatment of cats and those complaining about the cats happy, and they say they have notices a lot of cats roaming the streets, but many say they didn't know it was a dilemma.

"I didn't even know such an issue existed. I would see stray cats on the street but never knew they posed a problem," says King.

Various ideas were tossed around at Friday's meeting from trapping the feral cats to making it mandatory for pet owners to use ID tags or chips on their cats.

Other ideas members are reading and researching include providing food and shelter to the free-roaming cats as well as a trap-neuter-return process (trapping the cats, neutering them and returning them to their neighborhood). According to a report from the committee, the trap-neuter-return process "is working well in Jacksonville, FL, and nearby smaller cities," citing that they dropped their kill rate by 50% and intake rate by close to 30%.

"I'm hoping those who had concern about feral cats will be satisfied in the decision that we make namely just preventing the excessive number," says King.

The CAC hopes to make their final recommendations for the amendments to be made in the Albany Animal Ordinance within four meetings. The next step will be for city commissioners to take final action on the ordinance revisions.

The CAC meets again on Wednesday, Feb. 23, at noon.

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