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Published: Thursday, 6/26/2003

The zoo's cat problem

The problem of feral cats has plagued Toledo for more years than we can count. City Council's 1992 ordinance that cats be licensed, with fees paying the salary of an animal control officer, seems to have fallen victim to a deficit of will. The Toledo Area Humane Society's new and questionable practice of neutering and releasing healthy strays does little to halt diseases untended cats may get and spread to humans and other beasts.

So the Toledo Zoo has decided to take cat matters into its own hands.

The zoo will begin trapping cats on its premises, keeping them for a limited time, then euthanizing them. It's a drastic step, but one that must be taken, officials correctly note, because the cats are getting into exhibits and endangering valuable and rare animals.

They've found zoo animals infected with toxoplasmosis, a disease that affects the central nervous system and is carried in cat waste. The ailment contributed to the death of a wallaby a few years back. In addition, cats with feline leukemia and parasite infections could pass them on to the zoo's exotic big cats.

Seven years ago the zoo began trapping cats and turning them over to the Humane Society for care, and/or adoption or euthanization. But no more.

Akron, in Summit County, has trapped and euthanized more than 1,200 cats after it ordained that any caught off owners' property faced a death penalty. Here no one recalls even a citation.

Of course Citizens for Humane Animal Practices is suing. It parrots the local Humane Society line, which maintains that studies show that trapping feral cats doesn't solve the problem of their existence, because other cats move in and take their place. Doesn't that call for an ongoing elimination program?

This same mentality is besieging Richmond, Ind., where HELP the Animals wants the city to let it set up a managed feral colony in Glen Miller Park. City officials, for their part, want to clear the park of its 60 to 80 free-roaming cats and are adopting a removal and relocation plan. It will prosecute obstructionists.

Working under policies similar to those advanced in Akron and Richmond, our humane society released 400 neutered feral cats last year. Two cats and their offspring can produce 50 in 18 months and 300,000 in seven years. Untended cats don't get medical attention. Feral cats are by definition untended. They threaten public health and that of other animals.

The zoo is to be commended for moving to deal with a serious problem.

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