Norfolk reviews cat control budget

Advocates want $10G cut reversed

Norfolk council will have an opportunity Tuesday to review a $10,000 cut to the county’s feral cat control program. The reduction from $30,000 to $20,000 was approved during council’s budget deliberations in January. Ashli Barrett / Postmedia Network

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The cat control community could learn this week whether Norfolk County will continue supporting its efforts beyond 2019.

Volunteers engaged in trap, neuter and re-home were disappointed earlier this year when Norfolk council reduced their funding this year from $30,000 to $20,000.

In January, council was seeking savings in this year’s operating budget and the cat-control community was called on to make a contribution. Council could revisit the matter at its meeting Tuesday.

“We would like to respectfully request that council reconsider re-instating the $10,000 shortfall to this very important program and also seriously reconsider the discussion about terminating the program next year because things would very quickly get out of control again,” Sandi Fettes of Simcoe, a spokesperson for Norfolk PAWS, said in a presentation to council last month.

Council responded to Fettes’ presentation by asking staff to gather details on Norfolk’s cat-control efforts to date. That report will be tabled at Tuesday’s meeting.

In her report, Pam Duesling, Norfolk’s general manager of development and cultural services, says the county enlisted the support of volunteer groups in 2016 to help control feral cats after receiving estimates that nearly 30,000 were roaming at large. Many live in old barns and other rural settings conducive to cat colonies.

Norfolk got involved in response to the large number of cats at issue, the serious diseases they carry, and their impact on wildlife. Wildlife in Norfolk is not adapted to cat predation and is easy pickings for these skillful hunters. Vulnerable species include birds and small mammals such as chipmunks.

“It is essential — not only for residents of Norfolk County — but also the cats and for the protection of birds to find a progressive means of controlling feral cats,” Duesling says in her report.

“This is particularly critical in Norfolk County, home to an enormous variety of bird species, including a number of species-at-risk (such as) the prothonotary warbler, cerulean warbler, hooded warbler, Louisiana water thrush, wood thrush, eastern wood pewee, bobolink, eastern meadowlark, barn swallow, bank swallow and the least bittern.

“Trap, neuter, vaccinate and release/re-home practices are suggested as a humane and non-lethal solution to reduce populations of feral cats.”

In her report, Duesling says Norfolk County earmarked $50,000 for cat control in 2017.

This money was split between the Simcoe & District Humane Society and Norfolk PAWS, which at the time was an umbrella group encompassing Purrfect Companions, Pawsitive Solutions and Night and Day Animal Rescue.

In 2017, Norfolk PAWS and SDHS caught and neutered 714 homeless cats. Most were adopted into new homes while only a handful was returned to managed colony settings. The actual cost to the municipality in 2017 was $38,270 – in part –because the local humane society didn’t spend its entire allocation.

In 2018, the cat-control budget was reduced to $40,000. The contract was awarded to Purrfect Companions, which trapped and neutered 954 cats. Norfolk was invoiced for 476 at a cost of about $60 per animal. The total cost to the municipality in 2018 was $35,700.

In her report, Duesling says nine percent of the cats that passed through Purrfect Companions last year were returned to a managed colony. At a managed colony, the cats are left alone but are fed and monitored for disease.

Homes were found for 800 at cost to the new owners of between $80 and $150 per feline.

Purrfect Companions also has the county contract for 2019. In her report, Duesling says cat control “is not a mandated service.”

After Fettes made her presentation March 19, Mayor Kristal Chopp said the cat control program deserves a second look and that a continuation into 2020 may be beneficial.

Tuesday’s meeting of Norfolk council will be held in the council chamber at Governor Simcoe Square beginning at 3 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.