Amend County Ordinance to include Cat Trapping in support of Public Health

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Currently as it reads, the Pasco County Ordinance pertaining to Animals reads; 

Sec. 14-97. - Running at large. - (d)Any dog that is on private property without the consent of the property owner or resident may be captured in a humane trap or otherwise confined. Persons capturing at large dogs must contact animal services within 24 hours of its capture to have the animal picked up by animal services and will be responsible for the humane care free from cruelty of the animal until the animal is picked up by the department. Any person capturing an animal shall do so at his own risk, and must sign a document stating the date, time, and location where the animal was captured and stating whether the animal has a known owner/harborer/keeper. A person shall not entice a dog to become at large for the purpose of trapping or apprehending it when that dog would otherwise not be at large.

The current ordinance does not allow property owners to trap feral cats or other non-domesticated animals for the purpose of controlling the feral cat population. This results in a serious health concern for the property owners of Pasco County and their children and animals. 

According to Gerhold RW and Jessup DA, "Free-roaming cat populations have been identified as a significant public health threat and are a source for several zoonotic diseases including rabies, toxoplasmosis, cutaneous larval migrans because of various nematode parasites, plague, tularemia and murine typhus. Several of these diseases are reported to cause mortality in humans and can cause other important health issues including abortion, blindness, pruritic skin rashes and other various symptoms. A recent case of rabies in a young girl from California that likely was transmitted by a free-roaming cat underscores that free-roaming cats can be a source of zoonotic diseases. Increased attention has been placed on trap-neuter-release (TNR) programmes as a viable tool to manage cat populations. However, some studies have shown that TNR leads to increased immigration of unneutered cats into neutered populations as well as increased kitten survival in neutered groups. These compensatory mechanisms in neutered groups leading to increased kitten survival and immigration would confound rabies vaccination campaigns and produce naïve populations of cats that can serve as source of zoonotic disease agents owing to lack of immunity. This manuscript is a review of the various diseases of free-roaming cats and the public health implications associated with the cat populations."

This petition is to support amending the current ordinance to allow the trapping and safe removal of the feral cat population. This petition also supports safely euthanizing the feral cats via humane methods (i.e administering dosage of the drug Pentobarbital which is used as a sedative, anesthetic and euthanasia drug). Numerous studies have shown that traditional Trap, Spay/Neuter, and Release, or TNR, have been shown to have no significant effect on the feral cat population. As a result, the cats continue to spread zoonotic diseases by defecating, urinating or biting animals and humans.

This is a rampant problem in Pasco County, which if left unchecked will only result in law abiding citizens continuing to suffer the consequences of irresponsible pet owners. 

An an excerpt of bordering Polk County's Animal Ordinance 05-47 Section 13 reads;

SECTION 13: RESIDENTS CAPTURING AT-LARGE ANIMALS

A property owner or tenant may seize, in a humane manner, any animal at-large on his or her property in violation of this ordinance.  When such a seizure is made, the person shall immediately deliver the animal to an animal control officer.

Any person who captures an animal pursuant to this section shall exercise care to treat the animal humanely, without causing injury, sickness, hunger, or any other ailments to the animal during seizure and delivery of the animal.  Any person unable to comply fully with this section shall not seize any animal pursuant to this section.  Failure to comply with this section may result in the filing of a cruelty charge, as described in Chapter 828, Florida Statutes.

Furthermore, the Ordinance allows a holding period for the animals which reads;

SECTION 9: HOLDING PERIODS; DISPOSITION OF UNCLAIMED ANIMALS; QUARANTINE

(a)  The following holding periods are hereby established for animals picked up by, or turned in to  Animal Control, excluding animals surrendered to Animal Control by their owner or custodian.

(1)  Healthy animals wearing a current, valid tag, or abandoned animals:  Ten (10) calendar days, including the day of impoundment. 

(2)  Healthy animals not wearing a current, valid tag or county-approved cat collar:  A minimum of four (4) calendar days, excluding county holidays.  The Animal Control Lieutenant, or his or her designee, may extend the holding period beyond this time.

(3)  Diseased, feral, or injured animals, whether tagged or untagged:  Two (2) hours.

(b)  Any animal, of which the owner is identified, that is held under quarantine at Animal Control, will be considered unclaimed if not picked up on or before the third day following the quarantine.  If not claimed on or before the third day following the quarantine, the animal will be disposed of as necessary.  Disposition shall include selling, destroying, or utilizing other humane options.

(c)  Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Public Safety Department Director, the Animal Control Lieutenant, or the designee for either person may reduce any holding period in the event of overcrowding or a local state of emergency, as defined in Polk County Ordinance No. 93-28.

Additional studies which support the Trap and Euthanize method over Trap, Spay/Neuter, and Release method:

Costs and benefits of trap-neuter-release and euthanasia for removal of urban cats in Oahu, Hawaii.

Lohr CA1, Cox LJ, Lepczyk CA.

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii at Mānoa, 1910 East-West Road Sherman Laboratory, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA.

Abstract

Our goal was to determine whether it is more cost-effective to control feral cat abundance with trap-neuter-release programs or trap and euthanize programs. Using STELLA 7, systems modeling software, we modeled changes over 30 years in abundance of cats in a feral colony in response to each management method and the costs and benefits associated with each method . We included costs associated with providing food, veterinary care, and microchips to the colony cats and the cost of euthanasia, wages, and trapping equipment in the model. Due to a lack of data on predation rates and disease transmission by feral cats the only benefits incorporated into the analyses were reduced predation on Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (Puffinus pacificus). When no additional domestic cats were abandoned by owners and the trap and euthanize program removed 30,000 cats in the first year, the colony was extirpated in at least 75% of model simulations within the second year. It took 30 years for trap-neuter-release to extirpate the colony. When the cat population was supplemented with 10% of the initial population size per year, the colony returned to carrying capacity within 6 years and the trap and euthanize program had to be repeated, whereas trap-neuter-release never reduced the number of cats to near zero within the 30-year time frame of the model. The abandonment of domestic cats reduced the cost effectiveness of both trap-neuter-release and trap and euthanize. Trap-neuter-release was approximately twice as expensive to implement as a trap and euthanize program. Results of sensitivity analyses suggested trap-neuter-release programs that employ volunteers are still less cost-effective than trap and euthanize programs that employ paid professionals and that trap-neuter-release was only effective when the total number of colony cats in an area was below 1000. Reducing the rate of abandonment of domestic cats appears to be a more effective solution for reducing the abundance of feral cats.

Use of matrix population models to estimate the efficacy of euthanasia versus trap-neuter-return for management of free-roaming cats.
Andersen MC1, Martin BJ, Roemer GW.


Abstract
OBJECTIVE:
To evaluate the efficacy of trap-neuter-return and trap-euthanatize management strategies for controlling urban free-roaming cat populations by use of matrix population models.

DESIGN:
Prospective study.

SAMPLE POPULATION:
Estimates of free-roaming cat populations in urban environments.

PROCEDURE:
Data from the literature describing the biology of free-roaming cat populations in urban environments were gathered. A matrix population model was developed with a range of high and low survival and fecundity values and all combinations of those values. The response of population growth rate to a range of management actions was assessed with an elasticity analysis.

RESULTS:
All possible combinations of survival and fecundity values of free-roaming cats led to predictions of rapid, exponential population growth. The model predicted effective cat population control by use of annual euthanasia of > or = 50% of the population or by annual neutering of > 75% of the fertile population. Elasticity analyses revealed that the modeled population was most susceptible to control through euthanasia.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE:
Free-roaming cat populations have a high intrinsic growth rate, and euthanasia is estimated to be more effective at reducing cat populations than trap-neuter-return programs.

 

It is clear the only method for ensuring the safety of our children and animals is to support amending the current County Ordinance to allow the trapping of and humane euthanasia of the feral cat population. The current ordinance does not allow property owners to take the necessary steps for ensuring the health and safety of their own children and animals. Please petition the Board of County Commissioners to update this outdated and archaic ordinance which allows the free-roaming of feral cats. Polk County Ordinance 05-47 shows Polk County cares about the health and welfare of responsible pet owners and parents alike. Let's encourage Pasco County to follow suit! 



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