If animal control picks up the stray cat or cats you've been complaining about, you might be surprised when the critters return in a couple of days.
The reason? Eight Northern Kentucky counties, including Boone, Kenton and Campbell, are part of a grant program that catches, neuters and releases cats back to the area where they were trapped. Cats won’t face the death penalty anymore for being unwanted, unlike the nearly 2,500 cats that were euthanized in those three counties in 2015.
Instead, according to Devon Smith, clinic director at Ohio Alleycat Resources, a $500,000 grant from the Joanie Bernard Foundation and the Northern Kentucky Area Development District -- and signed off on by the eight fiscal courts -- is helping counties and their residents take a new approach to the ever-growing cat population.
It’s also good news for cat owners: House cats are included. Anyone in the eight-county area can get their cat spayed or neutered for free. That includes Boone, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Owen, and Pendleton.
Already in October, 201 cats have had surgery and been released, according to OAR statistics. It’s a part of a nationwide effort by Target Zero to stop euthanasia at all shelters by 2025. Smith said euthanizing cats has not controlled the population.
"The strategy we've been using, it's not working. Why not try something else?"
Shelters are overburdened with the cost of euthanization and adoption of NKY's 8,500 'community cats' -- those who are lost, stray or feral. There’s money in it to try something else, Smith said.
"There are organizations who literally give thousands of dollars to save cats. No one’s going to give money for euthanasia," he said.
Feedback is mixed, but once you educate people they understand, said Lisa Krumen, assistant director of the Campbell County Animal Shelter. Nine cities in Campbell are participating right now, she said.
The only one that is not is Newport, which the Fiscal Court has not worked with yet. The grant happened very quickly, Krumen said, and the county didn’t have time to work out all the issues.
Brian Steffen is director of code enforcement in Newport. "There’s a potential conflict," he said.
Newport’s decades-old ordinance shows that residents can’t let their cats become a nuisance, and they cannot harbor or feed feral cats.
"I’m not sure how this is going to play in the urban areas," Steffen said.
In the meantime, cats trapped by Newport Animal Control are taken to the county animal shelter.
The big difference is the spayed cats are being released back in their neighborhoods. And, even with complaints, most residents agree that something has to be done. Emily Carabello, a Newport resident and owner of a former alley cat, told the story of a stray that recently got in her house.
"He knocked over potted plants, and it was quite an adrenaline rush getting him out," she said.
Other Good Samaritans, like Kelly Haren of Fort Thomas, feed some friendless felines. Haren said she’s thankful the cats won’t be euthanized anymore -- her own family's adopted 'community cat,' Outside Mike, will probably go in soon to be neutered.
And her family wants him back.
“We don't mind him at all, and are actually pretty fond of him," Haren said.
Others are happy about the grant, including shelter workers who came to work every day and had to deal with euthanization. Elizabeth Cochran is director of the Kenton County Animal Shelter. She said she’s worked there 11 years and every year nearly 2,000 cats come in. The majority were euthanized, she said.
“We’re making a big difference,” Cochran said.
Want a cat fixed?
If you live in Boone, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Owen, and Pendleton counties call Ohio Alleycat Resource (513-871-0185) or UCAN (United Coalition for Animals) at 513-721-7387.
Both organizations provide free transportation from Boone, Campbell, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton and Pendleton counties.
Several veterinarians are also participating in the spay and neuter program.
There's no fee, said Devon Smith, clinic director at OAR. Community cats are free as well. Community cats will be given rabies and distemper shots and will be returned to the neighborhood where they were found. Their left ear will be clipped so that everyone knows the cat has been neutered and does not need to be trapped again, said Smith.