The Dare County Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved funds to conduct a countywide trap-neuter-release (TNR) program over the next few months, as an initiative to help keep the local cat population manageable for years to come.
Per the initiative, (which was approved at the August 1 meeting), Dare County will provide $70,000, while the Outer Banks SPCA – which manages the Dare County Animal Shelter – will provide an additional $30,000 in order to trap, neuter, and return an estimated 1,000 cats throughout the county. OBX SPCA representatives stated at the meeting that four to five local veterinarians have already agreed to assist with the upcoming project, and at a minimal cost.
“I personally can attest to the success and efficiency of trap-neuter-release programs in different neighborhoods in Dare County, thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Jan Rhymer of Feline Hope and Debbie Martin with [Hatteras Island] Friends of Felines, who have been trying to run a completely volunteer trap-neuter-release program in their own communities for decades,” said Laurie Amatucci, President of the Board of Directors at OBX SPCA, and a Hatteras Island resident.
“The ability for us to work together and offer this kind of a program, in the magnitude of a countywide program, would truly be a game changer,” she added. “It can change the face of the communities, it will eliminate nuisances in the communities, it will decrease the population of feral cats, and will actually improve the lives of the existing [outdoor and] feral cats.”
The initiative and motion, which was presented by Commissioner Rob Ross, was passed unanimously 7 to 0, but several commissioners had questions regarding the program before casting their vote.
“I understand the trap and neuter [aspects], but why would we release them back?” asked Chairman Bob Woodard.
“There are some [outdoor] cats that are truly feral,” said Amatucci. “They’re not a nuisance to anyone, but they would never be able to survive inside, and the Outer Banks is kind of famous for our feral cats.”
“The point is, if these cats are taken care of, if they’re neutered so that there will not be more of them, and if they’re vaccinated for rabies, they do not create any nuisance to the community. They do not provide any harm,” she said. “They become what the communities consider a nuisance when their population explodes exponentially, which is the situation that we’re now facing.”
Bill Coleman, Executive Director for Outer Banks SPCA, noted that the truly feral cats, when neutered and vaccinated, can also be beneficial to a community by controlling vermin, and most “feral” kittens can be socialized and adopted to loving homes, such as the 100 or so kittens currently available at the Dare County Animal Shelter.
“We have over 100 kittens in the shelter right now, and we have well over 100 cats… and we don’t have enough people coming to adopt [our] cats,” said Coleman. “This is a way to curtail this issue, so it won’t be a problem in the future.”
Several commissioners also made statements in favor of the program, noting their own experiences of abandoned or feral cats in the county’s various communities.
“One of the big problems in our county is that a lot of our citizens think it’s perfectly fine to take a litter of kittens and go dump them somewhere,” said Commissioner Jim Tobin, who owns the Pirate’s Cove Marina in Manteo. “There are citizens in our county that literally throw cats over the bridges into the water… This month, somebody threw one off the bridge at Pirates Cove and the poor little kitten was clinging to one of the pilings. Luckily, one of the boaters found them.”
“This is an educational problem,” he added. “In my heart, I do not understand how somebody can be so vicious and so heartless that they can do that, but they can’t drive to your [animal shelter] facility and give up the kitten. It is absolutely pathetic.”
“And this gives us an opportunity to help this problem,” said Amatucci. “We’re going to be using a lot of volunteers, and we’re going to be working with the existing volunteer organizations… 1,000 cats is our bottom line, but in the meantime, we’ll be rescuing these kittens and working with the communities to [adopt them], so that at the end of the year, I’ll be happy to come to another Commissioners’ meeting and tell you that this isn’t the case anymore, and to report on the progress that we’ve made.”
Amatucci also noted that on Hatteras Island, (as well as throughout Dare County), most of the feral cats were located in established colonies that are managed by caretakers, under the guidelines of the 2016 Dare County Feral Cat Ordinance. The cats that will be spayed and neutered may be feral cats, but they may also be outdoor cats who love their humans, and who will be returned to their owners once the procedure is complete.
The program is expected to be conducted within the next 6-9 months, with the assistance of the Outer Banks SPCA, local veterinarians, volunteers, and non-profit organizations.
“A cat that you neuter is a cat that’s not going to reproduce. For any male cats that you neuter, that’s 100 kittens that will not be out there next year,” said Amatucci. “This is not a band-aid. This is a solution.”
For more information, and to adopt an Outer Banks cat or kitten…
Dare County Animal Shelter
Adopting an animal from the OBX SPCA is simple. All adoptable cats and other animals can be found online at https://www.obxspca.org/adoptable-cats/.
Folks can also stop by the Manteo shelter to browse and meet their animals, and staff members will assist with any introductions. After the paperwork is complete, folks can take home their new family member the same day. The Dare County Animals Shelter is located at 378 Airport Rd in Manteo, and is open Monday through Saturday.
Friends of Felines Cape Hatteras Island
Friends of Felines Hatteras Island (FOFHI) is an all-volunteer and non-profit feral cat advocate organization that’s based on the island, and which is dedicated to improving the lives of feral and community cats, and humanely reducing their numbers over time by utilizing the TNR method. In addition, the organization continually assists low-income residents on Hatteras Island with spay/neuter services and medical assistance for the cats they shelter and feed, and they also find homes for abandoned kittens and cats who don’t necessarily fit the feral criteria, and who would thrive more in a loving household.
Feline Hope is a 501© 3 non-profit, all-volunteer organization that provides spay, neuter, and medical assistance to the Outer Banks community to enable owners to keep their pets. They sponsor monthly low-cost spay and neuter clinics, which include FVRCP and rabies vaccinations, as well as deworming/flea treatment. They are a strong supporter of TNR, and also assist with food for the cat colonies.