Edit: The proposed changes discussed in the article below have been removed from the City Council Agenda and were not considered for implementation on Sept 1. However, proposed changes will be discussed again sometime in September.
On an internal memo dated August 17, ACS Director Gary Hendel proposed ordinance amendments to the City’s Animal Code, Chapter 5.
If the proposed changes go into effect free roaming cats will be deemed a nuisance. The memo states that this will enable more efficient TNR (Trap Neuter Return) programs, which are proven to reduce population growth. However, the amendments proposed dirctly contradict existing TNR efforts.
Currently, cats are not considered a nuisance under Chapter 5, and ACS does not accept cats in traps for that reason. The San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition privately operates a growing TNR program that is funded by donations from people who care for and about stray and feral cats. Hundreds of private citizens are trapping, altering and releasing stray and feral cats in San Antonio at no cost to ACS every day with the support of SAFCC and other nonprofit rescue groups. Some utilize low-cost spay/neuter programs like SNAP and SPAYSA, while others use private vets on their own.
If these changes were to go in effect, anyone who traps a cat would be required to take that cat to ACS, and ACS would be required to hold the animal for 72 hours. Funding for ACS has been dramatically increased in order to make San Antonio a no kill city, but filling kennels with feral cats and commissioning ACS staff to manage relocation programs and cat colonies was not a part of the ACS budget proposal for 2012. ACS is not equipped to take in the feral cats that citizens are trapping every day right now, and citizens would rather work together to care for the animals privately than send them to their death at ACS – even if trapped cats are eventually relocated by ACS, while a feral cat is taking up space in a kennel a cat that could be adopted will instead be killed due to lack of space. If these changes go into effect, the result will be more animals killed as ACS kennels are taken up by trapped cats and fewer animals sterilized, as the population currently caring for the cats would rather deal with adopting out more kittens than add to the ACS population for any period of time.
Hendel writes in the memo: “The old style of animal management was to trap as many cats as possible, to hold them the minimum time allowed and then to euthanize them. This style failed because the animals missed during the trapping process reproduced at a rapid rate, replacing those removed within a short time. ACS is committed to finding a better, more permanent solution.”
Declaring cats a nuisance and encouraging people to bring trapped cats to ACS is not any different than the failed solution above. If the City and ACS want to contribute to healthy, sterilized cat colonies, it would be more cost effective and efficient to work with the organization already operating successful, privately-funded TNR programs to trap and relocate cats without taking up valuable kennel space or the time of ACS managers and staff.
If our City Council wants the dollars it has given to ACS to be used to get dangerous animals off of our streets and healthy animals adopted into responsible homes, then it should not approve these proposed changes to the City’s animal code. The councilors should hold ACS accountable to the promises they make and the public funds they receive. ACS should eenforce licensing laws for dogs AND outdoor cats, and allow nonprofits and private citizens to TNR area cats without making tax payers foot the bill or homeless animals pay with their lives.
City Council is voting on the proposed changes Thursday, Sept. 1. Don’t let these changes slide by while the council is preoccupied with budget planning – let them know what you think.