Sunday, February 6, 2011

Feral cats finally catch a break in Duval County

Until recently, colonies of feral cats in Duval County had been well cared for by a group of dedicated volunteers, but in a shadowy world, without any legal protection.

Then in December, 2010, Duval County’s Animal Control Ordinance 2010-527 passed. The ordinance contains a couple of provisions that will prove helpful to animals, including the Feral Freedom pilot project, funded by Best Friends Animal Society.

The feral project has been active in the area for a couple of years, but is now incorporated into Duval County’s Ordinances. Getting to this point has been a collaboration between the City of Jacksonville, Best Friends Animal Society, First Coast No More Homeless Pets, and the Jacksonville Humane Society.

Short story: Feral cats, or “community cats,” as animal advocates refer to them, will no longer be rounded up and killed in Duval County. It will now be legal to care for them.

The Feral Freedom pilot project uses the TNR (trap, neuter/return) formula to keep community cats out of humane societies and rescue groups where they don’t usually thrive. Another benefit to the project is that spaces not taken by feral animals will be available for more adoptable animals which should help increase adoptions rates across the county.

Under the new ordinance, community cats will be exempt from rules that apply to pet cats, such as licensing fees - if those caring for them have followed TNR procedures and have also vaccinated the cats. Ear tips will be placed on the community cats for identification purposes. Many involved in the project said the tips will eventually be considered to be licenses.

Note from Patricia: First, a rhetorical question, to no one in particular: “Why do laws have to be passed to allow people to be humane?”

OK, I’ve got some feelers out to learn how many cities and counties throughout Florida have hooked up with the Feral Freedom pilot project. Once I learn of more, I will write about them here. Meanwhile, if your area has such a program, please post the info in the comments section below.

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